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Centenary Flag (Australia)

Official Flag of State

Last modified: 2022-03-05 by ian macdonald
Keywords: australia | flag of state | centenary flag | southern cross | stars: southern cross | stars: 7 points | stripe: red |
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The Centenary Flag

On 13 September 2001 the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Peter Hollingworth, proclaimed the Centenary Flag Warrant under Section 6 of the Flags Act (Commonwealth Gazette No. S382, 20 September 2001). The Centenary Flag is the flag presented on 3 September 2001 to the Prime Minister by the Australian National Flag Association at the flag centenary celebration - Royal Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne. It is a fully sewn, satin, Australian flag, inscribed with a special flag centenary message. This flag has an embellishment - a cardinal red stripe to represent the crimson thread of kinship' that stands at the heart of the Australian federation. It is used as Australia's official flag of state at important national events.

The first time Australia's flag of state represented the country overseas was on 11 November 2003, at the opening of the Australian War Memorial in Hyde Park, London by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Raymond Morris, 19 Feb 2005

In some sense, the centenary flag is particular Australian national flag of special importance, rather than a separate flag. The Governor-General did not proclaim it as a flag of Australia under section 5 of the Flags Act, but warranted its use by the commonwealth and state governments. I guess the reason this was necessary is because of the headband with inscription and red stripe. At any rate, it is used under warrant as a defacement of the national flag under section 6 of the Flags Act.

Here is the text of the warrant, from the Australian National Flag Association site:

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette Number S382

I, PETER JOHN HOLLINGWORTH, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council and under section 6 of the Flags Act 1953, authorise the Governments of the Commonwealth and of each of the States and Territories, to use, on ceremonial occasions, the Centenary Flag described in the Schedule.

Signed and sealed with the Great Seal of Australia on 13 September 2001



The Centenary Flag is the flag presented on 3 September to the Prime Minister by the Australian National Flag Association, being an Australian National Flag with a white headband incorporating:

  1. a cardinal red stripe; and
  2. the following inscription:
"The Centenary Flag. Presented to the Hon John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia on behalf of the people of Australia by the Australian National Flag Association on 3 September 2001 at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne to commemorate the first flying of the Australian National Flag on 3 September 1901 attended by the Rt Hon Sir Edmund Barton MHR, Prime Minister of Australia.".

In my experience, this flag is not yet well known among the Australian public. While the centenary of the national flag on 3 Sep 2001 received publicity, the centenary flag has not yet got much of a mention, apart from the efforts of ANFA.
Jonathan Dixon, 19 Feb 2005

I found a brochure recently put out by the Awards and National Symbols branch of the Prime Minister's department called "Australian national flag".

A little section of this publication has its own border and talks about the Centenary flag of state. It is fair to say that government officials are the main people who know about this flag but the authorities in Australia are now starting to mention its existance in documents made available to the general public.

It is a fairly elaborate thing the Australian government is doing actually. Maintaining a ledger of the flag's use and all.
Raymond Morris, 19 Feb 2005

An article, Berry troops Australia's Centenary colour by Sally Gordon appeared on page 12 of The Canberra Times on 12 Dec 2001. It began:

The Centenary flag was raised at the Member's entrance of the Legislative Assembly yesterday by Speaker Wayne Berry.

Each state and territory was requested by the Commonwealth to fly the flag for a day during the Centenary of Federation year.

On behalf of the Australian National Flag Association, the Centenary flag travelled to all states and territories, and was flown on significant occasions.

Yesterday's flag-raising signified a symbolic conclusion of the national journey. The national spokesperson for the flag association, Nigel Morris, said, "The Australian national flag is now 100 years old. It has stood the test of time and encapsulated some of the great moments of nation's history."

Raymond Morris, 21 Feb 2005

Other centenary celebrations

The Australian parliament paid tribute to the country's flag on 30 August 2001 when it agreed to a special resolution recognising the centenary of the Australian flag which took place on 3 September that year. Here it is:

Mr ANDERSON (Gwydir-Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (5.57 p.m.) -Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I move:

That this House:

  1. recognises and celebrates the centenary of the Australian National Flag which occurs on 3 September this year;
  2. honours the ideals for which our national flag stands including our history, geography and unity as a federated nation;
  3. notes that this is the world's only national flag ever to fly over one entire continent;
  4. acknowledges that our flag has been Australia's pre-eminent national symbol in times of adversity and war, peacetime and prosperity;
  5. recognises that our flag now belongs to the Australian people and has been an integral part of the expression of our national pride; and
  6. expresses its respect for the Australian National Flag as a symbol of our profound achievements as a federation; our independence and freedom as a people; and our optimism for a common future together.

I am very pleased to speak in support of the Prime Minister's motion, celebrating the centenary of the Australian National Flag. In April 1901 the government announced a competition to design the flag. It received over 32,000 entries. The judges chose five designs that were almost identical and split the prize among the winners. Those five designs form the basis of the flag that we celebrate today.

I think it is only appropriate that I should pay tribute to the contest winners, those five men and women who designed our best known national symbol. They were Anne Dorrington, who became a famous artist; Ivor Evans, a 14-year-old with a taste for Dante; William Stephens, the first officer on a steamship; Egbert Nuttall, a municipal architect; and Leslie Hawkins, an optician's apprentice.

After the decision on what it would look like was announced by Prime Minister Barton, the flag flew for the first time on 3 September 1901. It floated above the dome of the Exhibition Building in a strong south-westerly breeze. It was, according to the Melbourne Age, a brave and inspiring picture.

Since 1901, the flag has been flown in war and in peace, in adversity and in prosperity. It flew over Charleroi in Belgium in 1918 when the 2nd Division of the Australian Corp entered the city. The citizens of the town had made it from brown paper, and they offered our troops the use of the local university as a training centre. It flew over the X3 working camp in Singapore after the Japanese surrender; it had been made in secret by Australian prisoners of war, using handkerchiefs from Red Cross parcels.

I know that there has been very strong support in the Australian community for an action taken by this government in 1998 when we amended the Flags Act to ensure that the flag could not be changed unless a national vote of the people supported an alternative design. This guaranteed that the Australian flag was properly recognised as being the property of all Australians-not of Canberra, not of members of parliament.

Also of note is the fact that it is the only flag in the world that flies, or has ever flown, over an entire continent. Until the independence of Papua New Guinea in 1975, it flew over Australian territory from the equator to the geographic South Pole. In fact, it still flies today at the South Pole with the flags of other members of the Antarctic Treaty. It was broadcast around the world at a very proud time for Australia, and that was during the Sydney Olympics. It flies above Parliament House tonight as an enduring symbol of our achievements together and of our common future. I commend the motion to the House.

Raymond Morris, 27 Feb 2005

The Canberra Times article of 12 Dec 2001 (mentioned above) describes a proposal for a pledge of allegiance to the Australian flag, and also mentions celebrations for the flag's 50th anniversary in 1951:

[Nigel Morris] said a proposal requesting the text of the association's Australian Flag Promise be gazetted had been put to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The formal pledge of allegiance to a national symbol had similar form and substance to pledges used in the United States and had a significant role to play on occasions such as Australia Day and Anzac Day.

"It would continue the tradition set by R.G Menzies, who, as prime minister in 1951, issued gifts and mementoes to all schools in recognition of the flag's 50th birthday."

He hoped the proposal would be adopted before the end of the Centenary year, marking the significance of the 100th birthday of the Australian flag.

Mr Morris and the president of the NSW division of the flag association wrote the text of the flag promise as follows:

"I promise allegiance to our flag of 'Stars and Crosses';

"To serve my country and all its people faithfully, and;

"To uphold Australia's laws, customs, values and traditions to the best of my ability."

Included in the flag promise are the sentiments of the ACT's oldest, living war vetran, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Newton MBE.

According to Morris, Colonel Newton "is a well known and much loved identity in the ex-service community, who served through the Middle East campaign with the Australian Ninth Division".

Colonel Newton said he "wholeheartedly supports the [Australian National Flag Association] in its quest to have this body of text proclaimed by the Governor-General.

"By reciting the flag promise, the memory of the 1,500,000 people who saw wartime service in our armed forces in the century since Federation will be honoured."

Contributed by Raymond Morris, 21 Feb 2005

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