"The Aboriginal Flag represents Indigenous Australians, their unity and identity."
The Australian Aboriginal Flag is well recognized in this country and is defined by the colour scheme of black, yellow and red. Black represents the Indigenous people of Australia. The yellow circle in the centre symbolizes the sun and their protector. The red depicts the earth, the red ochre used as body paint in ceremonial occasions and most importantly the land in which they live. The flag is one and a half times its height in length and when flown, the black half should always be at the top.
This symbolic and spiritual flag was designed by an Aboriginal Elder, Mr Harold Thomas, a descendent from the Luritja and Wombai people of Central Australia and the first Aboriginal to graduate from an art school in Australia.
This flag has seen its fair share of controversy and was first flown on 12 July 1971 on National Aborigines Day, in Victoria Square, Adelaide, South Australia. The following year, on Australia Day of 1972, Prime Minister McMahon addressed government views on Aboriginal rights and policy, proclaiming they had no land rights or entitlement to compensation.
Land leases would only be allocated if they could prove beneficial use in economic and/or social circumstances.
The government gave approval to commercial mining on Aboriginal land. This frustration combined with various other rejections and disturbing statistics showing Indigenous infant mortality rates compared with the average general population caused further disappointment and resentment by the Indigenous.
That same day on the afternoon of Australia Day, a group of Aboriginal leaders and protesters set up a tent on the front lawn of Parliament House in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory, which became famous to all as the “Tent Embassy.” Australia’s Indigenous people were taking a stand and fighting for justice and their rights in society and their homeland Australia.
Over the years the Embassy has been destroyed in a storm, moved locations several times and been fire bombed by opposing parties.
Controversy fired up again in 1994 at the Commonwealth Games when Indigenous athlete, Cathy Freeman, ran her victory lap after taking out first place in the 200 metre sprint, holding both the Aboriginal and Australian Flags. The unexpected lap of honour resulted in surprise, admiration and criticism, the latter by the games officials. Despite obvious disapproval by the games authorities Cathy did it all over again after winning the 400 metre race.
In 1995 the Aboriginal Flag was recognized by the Australian Government as a national flag and awarded that status. The “Tent Embassy” was also included in the Australian Register of the National Estate as the single site for Indigenous Australians on a mission for political rights and equality.
Australia's Indigenous Flag has since been flown at Olympic venues and now flies permanently outside many prominent Australian buildings and venues, including Victoria Square in Adelaide, where it was first flown in 1971.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag is protected by the Copyright Act 1968 or by written consent from artist, Mr Harold Thomas. Carroll and Richardson Flags own the licence to manufacture the official Indigenous Flag and many other official and non-official Australian Flags.
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