Australian Aboriginal Flag Now Available for Public Use

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Writer
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.
January 24, 2022 Updated: January 24, 2022

The iconic Aboriginal Flag has been made freely available for public use after negotiations between the Australian Government and artist Harold Thomas.

On Tuesday, in a media release, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that copyright for the Aboriginal Flag had been transferred to the Commonwealth.

“We’ve freed the Aboriginal Flag for Australians,” the Prime Minister said.

“Throughout the negotiations, we have sought to protect the integrity of the Aboriginal Flag, in line with Harold Thomas’ wishes. I thank everyone involved for reaching this outcome, putting the Flag in public hands.”

Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from central Australia, designed the Flag in 1970. According to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, it was first raised in July 1971 at a land rights rally in Adelaide, after which it has gradually become the symbol of Aboriginal Australia.

The top half of the Aboriginal Flag is black, which represents the Aboriginal people, the lower half is red, symbolising the earth, and the yellow circle in the centre represents the sun.

Morrison said that the Aboriginal Flag will now be managed in a similar way to the Australian National Flag, in that while its use is free, it must be presented in a respectful way.

“All Australians can now put the Aboriginal Flag on apparel such as sports jerseys and shirts, it can be painted on sports grounds, included on websites, in paintings and other artworks, used digitally and in any other medium without having to ask for permission or pay a fee.”

Designer Harold Thomas said he hopes the new arrangement makes all people of Australia feel comfortable to use the Flag, “unaltered, proudly, and without restriction.”

“The Flag represents the timeless history of our land and our people’s time on it. It is an introspection and appreciation of who we are. It draws from the history of our ancestors, our land, and our identity and will honour these well into the future,” he said.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said obtaining free use of the Flag was “profoundly important for all Australians,” adding that it is an enduring symbol close to Aboriginal people’s hearts.

“Over the last 50 years we made Harold Thomas’ artwork our own—we marched under the Aboriginal Flag, stood behind it, and flew it high as a point of pride,” he said.

“In reaching this agreement to resolve the copyright issues, all Australians can freely display and use the Flag to celebrate Indigenous culture. Now that the Commonwealth holds the copyright, it belongs to everyone, and no one can take it away.”

While individuals now have the right to make their own Aboriginal Flags for personal use, to ensure commercially produced  flags  are high quality and continue to be manufactured in Australia, Carroll and Richardson Flagworld will continue to be the  exclusive licensed manufacturer and provider of Aboriginal Flags and bunting.

Included in the copyright transfer is that all future royalties the Commonwealth receives from Flagworld’s sale of the Flag will be funnelled into the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC), which hosts an annual one-week celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In addition, the Australian Government will provide an annual scholarship worth $100,000 in honour of Harold Thomas to open up opportunities for Aboriginal students in the area of Indigenous governance and leadership.

Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.