Last modified: 2015-06-27 by ian macdonald
Keywords: australia | southern cross | stars: southern cross | stars: 7 points |
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image by António Martins, 28 Nov 2005
The Australian flag is composed of three parts:
All the stars have an inner diameter (circle on which the inner corners rest) of 4/9 the outer diameter (circle of outer corners), even the 5-point star. The positions of the stars are as follows:
For more details, including a picture and a comparison with the New Zealand flag, see our page on the construction of the Australian flag.
Below is a summary of the history of the Australian flag. We have a separate page with a more detailed history. The links in the summary below point to the approrpiate sections of the detailed history.
image by António Martins, 28 Nov 2005
The Admiralty Warrant of 4 June 1903 authorised the Australian Red Ensign for vessels registered in Australia. In 1932 it was realised that this did not include the majority of private non-commercial vessels, which were rarely registered. Technically they were liable to a substantial fine if they did not fly the British Red Ensign. An Admiralty Warrant of 5 December 1938 replaced that of 1903 and authorised all ships and boats owned by British residents in Australia and New Guinea Mandated Territory to fly the Australian Red Ensign. [Public Record Office ADM 1/8760/224 and ADM 1/9477]
Initially, the Red Ensign was the only flag
private citizens could fly on land. In 1941 Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister, announced that there should be no
restriction on flying the Australian Blue Ensign, and in 1947 the Prime
Minister, who was then Joseph Chifley, issued a press statement that actively
encouraged its use by private citizens. [The Australian Flag [fol96] by Carol Foley]
David Prothero, 12 September 2001
After the 1953 Flags Act, the 'blue ensign' became the national flag for private citizens on land. This is still true
Miles Li, 15 September 2001
Under Section 30 of the 1981 Shipping Registration Act, an
Australian merchant ship can fly only the Australian Red Ensign, but other
Australian vessels can fly either the Australian Red Ensign or the Australian
National Flag, but not both at the same time.
David Prothero, 16 September 2001
http://www.amsa.gov.au/sro/brochures/broaros.htm [was] an online brochure published by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which confirms and expands on what David said:
Flying the FlagThe full text of the statute is at
Registered commercial ships over 24 metres in tonnage length must fly the Australian Red Ensign. All other registered ships have the choice of flying either the Australian National Flag or the Red Ensign.
An unregistered Australian owned ship can be issued with a certificate entitling it to fly either flag. Some ships are allowed to fly other flags in Australian waters only. These include: a State or Territory flag, a flag or ensign authorised by warrant under the Flags Act 1953, and the British Blue Ensign if the owner intending to fly it has a warrant to do so valid under British law.
A brochure can now be found at:
The Australian Attorney-General's Department web
site, which is linked from the above referenced Australian Maritime Safety
Authority web site, confirms Regulation 22 (Section 30) applies.
Colin Dobson, 3 April 2005
The history of Australian Red Ensign (ARE) use on land continues due to the Merchant Navy Association flying the ARE at their headquarters and at memorial services. A number of TV history dramas have ARE flying, The Dunera Boys was one such example. Old sailors may do so also. Re-enactments of historical events also use the ARE.
I have been flying the ARE over my residence since 4 August 1984. This is to ensure that there is a common law precedent so the ARE cannot be erased from either use or history.
It makes a great deal of sense to have a red coloured nautical flag as Red can be seen better at sea than Blue. The ARE is also part of our Heritage.
The ARE is not a dead flag. I use a second ARE on my main mast on days dedicated to the memory of the War Dead (ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day, Long Tan Day etc.) Red for blood, you see.
Finally, there is a history, however limited, of it still being used at rural
agricultural fairs. I can recall seeing it used at the ANZAC Day March in the late 1960s. The ARE is still in
declining evidence on land.
Steve Duke, 5 September 2007