Image: The first flying of the Aboriginal Flag in 1971 (source - Wikiwand.com)
The 12th of July marks the day that the Aboriginal flag was first flown in Adelaide’s Victoria Square on National Aborigines Day in 1971. Soon after, in 1972, it became the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.
In the years that followed, the Aboriginal flag appeared often in rallies and public and political gatherings, and soon became a strong symbol to Australia's First Nations Peoples. The flag was officially recognised by the Australian government under Federal legislation (along with the Flag of the Torres Strait Islands) in July 1995.
(Image source: abc.net.au)
The Aboriginal flag is made up of three components:
Black - symbolising the Aboriginal people,
Yellow (circle) - representing the sun, giver of all life and protector,
Red - symbolising the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and the Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual connection to the land.
A National Icon
Over the years, the Aboriginal flag has become a beloved Australian icon, and has come to hold great meaning and value to Australia's First Nations peoples.
Artist and activist Harold Thomas originally designed the flag as a symbol of the Indigenous Land Rights movement. Harold is still the copyright owner of the flag, having never been commissioned by the government for its creation. Although the Aboriginal flag is recognised under Commonwealth law as "the flag of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and a flag of significance to the Australian nation generally”, Mr. Thomas still maintains all reproduction rights to the flag.
In a notice sent to manufacturers in 2019, a company called WAM Clothing stated that it is now the authorised agent for Harold Thomas. This caused an uproar from the public and many businesses, who up until that point had operated based on the idea that the flag and its symbolism belonged to the people. You can read more about this in our previous article here.
Despite the ongoing debate around ownership of the Aboriginal flag, it continues to act as a powerful symbol of Aboriginal pride, and is synonymous with Aboriginal rights and identity in Australia and around the world.