THE ABORIGINAL FLAG – it works!

The Aboriginal flag. Red for the land, black for the people, yellow for the sun that gives life to both. Strong, simple, memorable.

Welcome, web-surfers! A lot of people looking for images of the ‘aboriginal flag’ were directed to my post on the need for a new Australian flag.

In that piece I only referred to the Aboriginal Flag briefly, so I did some surfing myself, looking for serious information that could help students complete their Social Studies homework and learn something at the same time.

I learned some new things too…

Harold Thomas - Moonlight Egrets. Image: http://www.territorycolours.com


The Aboriginal flag was designed by Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from Central Australia, who became the first Aboriginal student to graduate from an Australian art school.

He now lives in Darwin, where he continues to work as a painter.

I didn’t know his work, but I liked what I found on www.territorycolours.com

Mr Thomas designed the flag during the land rights movement of the early 1970s. It was first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide on National Aborigines Day 1971. Activist Gary Foley brought the flag to the East Coast and in 1995 the Australian Government proclaimed it an official ‘Flag of Australia’.

Mr Thomas still holds the copyright and replicas are only supposed to be made under licence. Congratulations on your legacy, Mr Thomas – you have contributed something which has become a small but important part of Australian life.

I don’t know how much thought and time and discussion went into designing that flag. I don’t know how you feel about a lifetime as an artist in which a single work becomes far better known than other paintings which may have required even more time, love, passion and skill.

Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman with the Aboriginal flag. AP photo: Russell McPhedran


What is unquestionable is that the flag has been a resounding success – a strong and simple symbol of Aboriginal people, with a distinctive colour combination.

Importantly, it is a flag which most Aboriginal people,and many non-indigenous people too, seem to love. It’s a unifying image, to be proudly waved at every opportunity.

If only the rest of Australia could agree on a replacement for the complicated, anachronistic flag we’re still lumbered with.

17 Comments

Filed under Art

17 responses to “THE ABORIGINAL FLAG – it works!

  1. Interesting – I didn’t know that!

  2. Pingback: A NEW AUSTRALIAN FLAG – my two bob’s worth | Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

  3. shawjonathan

    Nice post, Richard. In his show, Foley, Gary Foley gave a not necessarily trustworthy account of the designing of the flag. He claimed that Harold Thomas and he drank a lot of beer, or it might have been flagon wine, together one evening in Adelaide, and talked about how good it would be to have a unifying symbol for Aboriginal activists to rally around. Harold did a few sketches on scraps of the paper and by the next morning the flag was designed.

  4. Couldn’t agree with you more, Richard. But why leave it at the flag? When will we chose an entirely new set of symbols to represent a modern, independent Australia, once and for all emancipating ourselves from the ‘mother’ country with which a dwindling number of us have any emotional ties? But first, a new flag, and please, no more “girt by sea”!

  5. Will Byrne BallymunDub

    Great piece , very informative , life`s objective = to never stop learning , thank you .

  6. I really like that flag. It is a great concept for Australia.

  7. You’ve made some good points there. I looked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.

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