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The Aboriginal flag

Key points

  • The Australian Aboriginal flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas in 1970.
  • The colours of the flag represent the Aboriginal people of Australia and their connection to the land.
  • The flag was first raised on National Aborigines Day in Adelaide on 12 July, 1971.
  • The flag has become a symbol of unity and identity for Aboriginal people.
  • In 1995, the Aboriginal flag was recognised by the Australian Government as an official 'Flag of Australia' under the Flags Act 1953.

The Aboriginal flag was designed and created by artist Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from central Australia and a member of the Stolen Generations. The flag has become a symbol of Aboriginal Australia and holds special legal and political status worldwide.

I've got a symbol that represents me and who I am, whether I live in Redfern or Adelaide or Perth, I'm proud of it. – Harold Thomas

The flag’s design consists of a coloured rectangle divided in half horizontally. The top half of the flag is black to symbolise Aboriginal people. The red in the lower half stands for the earth and the colour of ochre, which has ceremonial significance. The circle of yellow in the centre of the flag represents the sun. The designer Harold Thomas says the colours of the flag represent the Aboriginal people of Australia and their spiritual connection to the land.

The flag was first raised on National Aborigines Day in Victoria Square, Adelaide, on 12 July 1971. However, it did not became prolific until 1972 when it was chosen as the official flag for the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra.

In view of the flag’s wide acceptance and importance in Australian society, the Commonwealth took steps in 1994 to give the flag legal recognition. On 14 July 1995, the Governor General of Australia William Hayden proclaimed both the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag to be 'Flags of Australia' under the Flags Act 1953. However it wasn't until 1997 that the Federal Court of Australia officially recognised Harold Thomas as the author of the flag. This decision meant the flag was protected under the Copyright Act 1968 and can only be reproduced in accordance with this legislation or with the permission of Mr Thomas.

For guidance about using the Aboriginal flag, its colours, or the Torres Strait Islander flag refer to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.