Commonwealth flag officer issues note on protocol for Reconciliation Week

By Melissa Coade

Thursday May 27, 2021

Indigenous-aboriginal flag
(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

A guidance on flying Australia’s Indigenous flags during Reconciliation Week was issued to Commonwealth agencies and Australian overseas posts on Wednesday. 

The note to federal agencies said that from 26 May to 3 June flag poles near the Australian national flag on Australian government buildings would also raise the Australian Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag to fly high. 

“Flying the Indigenous Flags on National Sorry Day and throughout National Reconciliation Week recognises the significance of these events for all Australians and is a sign of respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture,” the note said.

“The Australian Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag have equal status and may be flown in any order after the Australian national flag.”

Artist Harold Thomas was responsible for the design of the Aboriginal flag (he continues to retain the copyright), which was first flown in Adelaide in 1971. A year later it was used as the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns in front of Old Parliament House in Canberra.

The Torres Strait Islander Flag was adopted in 1992 as part of a winning entry for a competition run by a statutory Queensland body, the Island Coordinating Council. It was recognised by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and given equal prominence with the Australian Aboriginal Flag that same year. 

The federal government recognised both designs as an official flag of Australia in 1995 under the Flags Act.

In the event that an organisation only has one spare pole to raise either the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flags, the flag officer advised it was ‘up to the discretion of the authority concerned to determine which of the two flags’ is flown alongside the national flag. 

Other organisations were encouraged to follow the same protocol but advised that the cost for additional marshal duties was their own responsibility. 

The commonwealth flag officer referred any queries about what order flags should be flown to the Australian Flags’ booklet


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