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New South Wales (Australia)

Last modified: 2020-01-18 by ian macdonald
Keywords: australia | new south wales | blue ensign | lion | stars | southern cross | stars: southern cross |
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[New South Wales flag] image by Clay Moss, 17 Oct 2008

See also:

NSW Flag

The New South Wales state flag was created as a colonial flag - a British Blue Ensign with the badge of the colony added to the blue field. There is no official explanation for the design of New South Wales's badge, but it is thought to be based on the unofficial local flag used from 1832 (which was later revived as the Federation Flag). The stars on the cross are considered to be representative of the Southern Cross, whilst the lion has the same purpose as on the Tasmanian badge - to represent the royal authority of the Governor.
Ralph Kelly, 19 September 1999

The New South Wales badge is a white disc, with a red St George's cross containing a gold heraldic lion in the centre and a gold eight-pointed star in each of the arms of the cross. This badge resembles the NSW coat of arms.

Detail of the lion

[Detail of lion from NSW flag] image by Clay Moss, 18 Oct 2008

The lion in my images is actually a photo taken straight off of a 6×12 foot NSW flag in my collection. I believe that I mentioned some time back that the lion illustrated in virtually all of NSW's flags manufactured in Australia, (regardless of the flag maker), is the one you see here.
Clay Moss, 13 January 2007

Use of the flag

In the 1970s & 1980s, the NSW flag was flown at many State Government facilities such as bus depots, hospitals, ambulance stations etc. Nowadays it can also be seen at private businesses in the CBD, at industrial estates around Alexandria & near the Aerodrome.

Most Australian state and territory flags appear to be 'government flags', with use by the general public often very restricted. The only exceptions appear to be NSW & QLD, who have both published booklets from 2002, promoting use of their states' flags by individuals, businesses and organisations. Instructions for use are generally the same as for the ANF.

The Pantone PMS numbers quoted in the NSW flag booklet are Blue - 2758; Red - 485; & Gold - 123. Most references, including NSW State Government ones show the badge size as half the flag width rather than 4/9ths. The QLD booklet specifies 4/9ths for their flag, and I believe the NSW Governor's Standard is definitely 4/9ths.

I understand that the NSW flag was originally intended exclusively for use by government ships and warships, with existing British flags for other applications. On colonial armed vessels, there was also the commissioning pendant which as I understand it, was approx. 1:40 proportion and apart from the red St George's Cross on white, was entirely dark blue.

Nowadays I don't think the NSW flag is used very much from vessels, except for the former Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol (RVCP) vessels that are granted use of the flag in honour of their war service. I recently inquired of the Premier's Department about this and was told that the tradition is continuing under the Marine Rescue administration.
Jeff Thomson, 26 April 2012


I drew up my images on this page specifically for John Vaughan, and he will be using these as the templates for the NSW flags that he (Australiana Flags) makes up for NSW government and the general public. That doesn't qualify the images as being "official" as it were, but Australiana Flags is probably Australia's biggest supplier of NSW flags which will make the images as plausible as we can get for now.

I have seen quite a few NSW flags made up by various manufacturers. As a rule, there will be some variance in the stars, their shapes and location relative the lion and cross. However, the lion has been very consistent in all NSW flags manufactured in Australia.
Clay Moss, 17 October 2008

Holding lines in badge

In practice the NSW badge features a black outline of the St George's Cross - this does feature on NSW flags I have seen. I don't think it was a deliberate inclusion on the badge, but the limitations of the governments printing processes meant that when the design was gazetted the black outline was included, as a result it has featured on NSW flags ever since.
Dylan Crawfoot, 06 July 1999

The most notable detail, at least with smaller flags in my collection, is that the holding lines never change in width. They are consistent at roughly 4mm whether a flag is 18×36 inches or 3×6 feet. On my 18×36 inch NSW flag, the lines are really too wide and rob the lion of detail while the stars could almost be described as black with a touch of gold in the middle. The 4mm lines are OK on a 3×6 foot flag and quite attractive on a 4.5×9 foot flag.
Clay Moss, 13 January 2007

Variation without holding lines for cross and stars
[Variation without holding lines for cross and stars] image by Clay Moss, 17 Oct 2007

This image doesn't have holding lines outlining the cross or stars. That's because one of the NSW flags in my collection was manufactured without said lines. The badge on the flag is all sewn. The circle and cross part of the badge was joined together while the stars and lion were meticulously appliquéd on to the flag. I believe the lion/lions may have been cut from a printed badge as the holding lines within the lion are printed. Anyway, it's quite a striking and beautiful flag. Unfortunately, I can't tell you who made it as there is no label. I do know it's Aussie made because of the roped heading and the brass "Moss" brand Inglefield clips that are on the flag.

Where star/cross holding lines are concerned on NSW flags, I don't believe they should be there to begin with. They make no sense.
Clay Moss, 13 January 2007

Black ring?

You may also recall the debate about whether or not a black ring should exist around any disk on an Australian state flag. Well, according to John Vaughan, the ring should be there on the Governor's flag, and so it is on the actual flag.
Clay Moss, 8 September 2006

Yes, but the manufacturer of a flag must get her or his brief from somewhere. They don't just make them up, out of their own imagination. The black line, which is probably only of concern on esoteric web sites such as this, may have been the result of an error which has simply been replicated down the years in subsequent publications. If the document which provides the definitive official description of the flag does not include a black line, then it shouldn't be in the drawing, whether that decree has art work or not.
Colin Dobson, 11, 18 September 2006

Simplified version?

Was the NSW ensign sometimes made in a simplified form without the lion and stars ?

One of the flags in a photograph of the opening of the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington in 1902 is a British ensign with a cross on a white circle in the fly. The ensign that it most nearly resembles is that of NSW, but there are definitely no emblems on the cross.
David Prothero, 19 September 1999

State Governor

[New South Wales Governor's flag] image by John Vaughan, 8 Sep 2006

New South Wales State Governor used the defaced Union Flag. It changed to a defaced Blue Ensign in 1981.
David Prothero, 24 February 1997

The NSW Governor adopted the new pattern of a slight variation of the State Flag, with the addition of a St. Edward's Crown above the fly badge on 15 January 1981 upon the retirement of Sir Roden Cutler.
Ralph Bartlett and Ralph Kelly, 4 August 2004

Above is Australian Vexillographer John Vaughan's artwork, which shows the St. Edward's crown sitting on the disk. The significance of this is that according to the Governor's office and John, this is the "official" drawing for the flag as John is the manufacturer for the NSW Governor's office where the Governor's flag is concerned.

You may also recall the debate about whether of not a black ring should exist around any disk on an Australian state flag. Well, according to John, the ring should be there on the Governor's flag, and so it is on the actual flag.
Clay Moss, 8 September 2006

See also: State Governors' flags

Flag of 1867

From 1867 to 1870, New South Wales flew a blue ensign with the white letters "NSW"
Source: Australian Girl Scouts website (now defunct)
Olivier Touzeau, 13 January 2001

Flag of 1870

[New South Wales, 1870] image by Martin Grieve, 17 October 2013

Despatch No.197, Government House, Sydney, 1st December 1870 to Earl of Kimberley (Colonial Secretary)
“The design [Five Stars (Golden) representing the Southern Cross upon a blue ground, the whole to be surmounted by a Crown] was intended as one for the ‘Governor’s’ Flag only. ..... My Ministers had no wish to submit a design for a Colonial Flag.”

This implies that there was no New South Wales Blue Ensign, but;

Blue Ensign with “NSW” in white in lower fly; (no circle). “for two vessels permanently in service of New South Wales and also two vessels of Naval Brigade” [National Archives CO 325/54]

A drawing of this badge appears in a draft page of the Colonial Office flag book, though not in the published book, which did not come out until 1881, by which time the badge had been changed.

Despatch No. 12, Government House, Sydney, 9th February 1876 to Earl of Carnarvon (now Colonial Secretary)
“In the Admiralty letter it is pointed out that this Colony has erroneously adopted different Badges to be inserted in the flags to be used by the Governor and by Government Vessels whereas the Badges should be the same in either flag, ...”
David Prothero, 17 October 2013

[New South Wales, Governor 1870] image by Martin Grieve, 17 October 2013

The NSW Governor adopted a badge which was five stars (golden) representing the Southern Cross upon a blue ground, the whole surmounted by a Crown on 20 April 1870. In the correspondence between the NSW Governor and the British Colonial Office, the Governor stated that he would discontinue the use of a "Governor's flag", which was described as a St George's Cross with Crown in the centre on a white ground. This appears to have been a generic colonial governors flag and was not a badge.
Ralph Kelly, 28 September 2006

[New South Wales, Governor 1870] image by Martin Grieve, 17 October 2013

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