Aboriginal Flag of Australia


The Australian Aboriginal flag was designed by watercolour artist Harold Thomas, a descendant from the Luritja Aboriginal People in the region of Central Australia.

It was designed to provide a unifying symbol for Aboriginal People fighting for the return of their traditional lands. In Thomas’s words:

I wanted to make it unsettling. Normally you out the darker colour at the bottom and the lighter at the top but I wanted to give a shock to the viewers and place the black on top. This had a dual purpose. It was a conscious decision to be unsettling but it also represents the aboriginal people walking on top of the land.

Thomas says the flag’s design came from his knowledge of traditional Austalian Aboriginal Art set within the context of contemporary Australia. He explains his use of red and yellow as obvious colours to use since red and yellow ochres were the predominant colours used by his people in ceremony. But because he was a trained artist he replaced the earthly ochres of his original design with a primary red, yellow and black to be eye-catching in the land rights protest.

The lasting power in the flag comes from its boldness and simplicity. Like the acrylic art, the strength of the design comes from the many interpretations the design evokes.

To some the red evokes the red earth of Central Australia and to others it suggests bloodshed. The black can be interpreted as the night sky or the skin colour of Aboriginal People.

Thomas has united these two colours with a yellow circle, a motif used in many Aboriginal Art & Paintings. This has been interpreted as the sun or the cyclical nature of life.

"It’s like it has a tjuringa – a sacred object placed in it” says Thomas.

Two decades after the design the flag was proclaimed a ‘Flag of Australia’, it now flies side by side with the Australian Flag and represents a powerful and unifying symbol of Aboriginality.

Aboriginal word glossary