On this day 21 years ago an identity was born for all Torres Strait Islanders. First flown May 29th, 1992 at the 6th annual Torres Strait Cultural Festival held on Thursday Island. Not only could we look at the sky and be proud, but to move on and be stronger as a united people in sports, politics and arts, and to do this all under the same banner. Not only are we Torres Strait Islanders, we are warriors that our people have fought for, and to recognise each other on mutual ground, with our colours flying high. Our colours; green, black, blue and white run deep in my veins, and I’m sure they do the same in all brothers and sisters, aunties, uncles and our elders of this great land and islands of the Torres Strait.
Today we recognise a man who opened his heart and mind to give the people of the Torres Strait a meaning. He gave not only myself, but thousands of others the reason to wear the colours, marks and designs we wear today. This amazing man may have passed on, but we should look back and reflect and recognise a man who not only held me in his arms, but took all the Torres Strait under his wing and in his heart to unite us in symbol.
2.30 – 6.14 “Torres Strait” sung by Cygnet Repu
I remember when I was in primary school a competition was announced for all Torres Strait Islanders to design a flag to best represent our people. From that time onwards, I remember my dad sitting up late doing sketches. Night after night the dinner table would be filled with his sketches of the flag. Me and My sister we’re never allowed to touch any of it. I remember the announcement of the winning design. Dad was called from work to the local TAFE for a morning tea and was awarded the winning prize of a small cheque. That was back in 1992. He was not a man of many words, but a man of many smiles and also a quiet achiever. It was officially recognised and presented to the Torres Strait people at the 6th Torres Strait Cultural Festival on May 29 back in 1992. A helicopter flew over the festival ground during that time with the flag in tow. It was a proud and emotional moment for everyone.
Dad sadly passed away in ’93, he was a young 31 year old with earlier reports of my Dad passing away at the age of 15 which is incorrect. Bernard Sr has four children, now grandkids and a loving and caring wife. Dealing with the loss of a father is hard enough, but knowing what Dad has done and the pride that runs through our family, our blood, and thanks to his creation now runs through the veins of all Torres Strait Islanders, brings me great happiness. As the eldest son of the designer, the one that carries his name, it makes me very proud to see my Dad’s hard work that was once sketched in pencil all over the kitchen table now flying on top of museums, embassies and parliamentary buildings in places I’ve visited all over the world, such as Paris and London.
The Torres Strait flag colours symbolises the late Bernard Namok Sr, knowledge of the culture and love for his people. The green represents land, blue is for the water, black is for Indigenous people. The Dhari or headdress represents Torres Strait Islands’ people, and the five pointed star represents the five major island groups. The star also represents navigation as a symbol of sea-faring culture of the Torres Strait. White represents peace, or the coming of Christianity to the Torres Strait.
Today we remember a husband, our father, athe, brother, son, nephew, uncle. Rest in peace Dad, you’re legacy lives on.