Flag Timeline

 1901 - 1919
 1920 - 1939
 1940 - 1959
 1960 - 1979
 1980 - 1999
 2000 - 2019

1901 - 1919

1901  29 April - Australia’s First Prime Minister, Edmund Barton announces the details of the Commonwealth Government’s unique competition for the design of a "federal" Australian flag (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No 27). 32,823 entries are subsequently received. 

1901  3 September (now Australian National Flag Day) - Prime Minister Barton announced the winning design of the government’s flag competition at a public ceremony. Australia’s new flag of "Stars and Crosses" is raised for the first time at approximately 2.30 pm. Featuring the Southern Cross, Union Jack and Commonwealth Star on a dark blue field the large flag about 11 metres long, flutters magnificently from the mast on the main dome of the Royal Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne - the site of the first Federal Parliament. 

1901  16 September - First Vice Regal (and formal) raising of the Australian Flag by Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun at Townsville, Queensland. 

1902  February - The Australian flag covers the grave of "Breaker" Morant, Pretoria, South Africa. 

1903  20 February - King Edward VII approves the design for the official Australian flag (blue background) and the Australian Red Ensign for Australia’s merchant ships and private pleasure craft (Commonwealth Government Gazette No 6). The points on the stars of the Southern Cross are adjusted from 9, 8, 7, 6 & 5 to a simpler pattern of four stars of 7 points and one of 5. 

1904  1 July to 23 November - Australian flag flies at Olympic Games, St Louis USA, where the Australian team consists of one competitor. 

1908  19 December - A 7th point is added to the Commonwealth Star to represent all Australia’s federal territories collectively. (Commonwealth Government Gazette No 65). There has been no alternation to our flag since this amendment. 

1908  27 April to 31 October - The Australian flag is raised at the London Olympic Games in celebration of the first medal win for Australia which was for Rugby football. Our flag has been the host flag for the Olympic Games on two great occasions, at Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000. 

1908  Australian Army Military Order, No 58/08, directs all military establishments (Stations) to fly the blue Australian flag. 

1911  The formation of the Royal Australian Navy is marked by the adoption of the Australian flag as the ensign to be "worn" (flown) from the jackstaff at the bow of all RAN commissioned ships and also at the mainmast as the "battle flag" when a ship is in combat. 

1912  Christmas Day - Frank Wild, a member of the Sir Douglas Mawson Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14, hoists the Australian flag and formally takes possession of Queen Mary Land (now part of Australian Antarctic Territory) in the name of King George V and the Australian Commonwealth. 

1914  6 August - The first use of the Australian flag in an act of war occurs when it flies over the army fort at Queenscliff, Victoria which opens fire to prevent the German steamer, Pfalz, from leaving port. 

1914  9 November - HMAS Sydney displays a large Australian flag as a "battle" ensign during her celebrated victory over the German warship, SMS Emden. The success of HMAS Sydney is an international news event and establishes the fighting reputation of the Royal Australian Navy. 

1917  20 September - Australian forces are victorious at the Battle of Polygon Wood, Belgium, during WWI. Lt A.V.L. Hull, who is later killed in action, plants the Australian flag on an enemy pillbox (machine gun post). The scene is subsequently depicted on a popular postcard which is sold to raise funds for wounded soldiers.

1918  8 August
- General Sir John Monash advises the Governor-General that his troops in France have broken through the German lines and have raised the Australian flag after liberating Harbonnieres. 

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1920 - 1939

1928  Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith carries three Australian flags in his aircraft, the Southern Cross, on the first flight to cross the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. These flags were subsequently presented to Sydney Hospital. 
1934  23 March - Commonwealth Government Gazette No 18 features a line drawing of the exact specifications of the official blue Australian flag and the merchant shipping flag, the Australian Red Ensign. 

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1940 - 1959

1940  19 July - The second HMAS Sydney, with the Australian flag flying as "battle" ensign, defeats the Italian navy’s cruiser, Bartolomeo Colleoni. 

1941  15 March - Prime Minister Robert Menzies issues a press statement encouraging the public to fly the blue Australian flag on land and the Australian Red Ensign at sea. 

1942  19 February - The Australian flag that flies outside the residence of the Administrator of the Northern Territory is riddled with bullet holes during a Japanese air raid. It is the first flag to come under enemy attack on Australian soil. The same flag is used in Darwin for a peace ceremony in 1946. It is flanked on one side by the Australian flag which flew at Villiers-Bretonneux in 1917 and on the other by the Australian flag flown by the HMAS Sydney when it destroyed the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni in the Mediterranean in 1940. This precious flag from Darwin is now on permanent display at the Australian War Memorial. 

1942  Australia’s flag is raised as the allies retake Kokoda, New Guinea. 

1943  25 November - Sgt Tom Derrick raises the Australian flag on a shell torn tree at Mount Sattelberg, New Guinea, after having destroyed ten enemy machine-gun posts. His incredible feat earns him the ultimate award for valour, the Victoria Cross. 

1945  The first flag to fly over the liberated Singapore is an Australian flag secretly made in a prisoner of war camp. Another Australian flag raised at the liberation of Singapore is now framed and held at the headquarters of the Returned and Services League, Canberra with a plaque which reads "This important artefact was concealed in Changi Prison by Captain Strawbridge MBE, from 1942-1945. It was raised over the gates of the prison, the day of formal liberation in September 1945."

A number of Australian flags were secretly made of scavenged pieces of cloth by Australian prisoners of war in various enemy camps. Some of these precious flags are now lodged in the Australian War Memorial. 

1947  24 February - Prime Minister Ben Chifley issues a statement encouraging more general and widespread use of the national flag. 

1951  The Commonwealth Government introduces the presentation of the Australian flag to all public schools. This has become a tradition. 

1953  2 December - Parliament passes 1953 Flags Act. The flag is confirmed by legislation as the chief national symbol by law, custom and tradition and its official title becomes the "Australian National Flag". 

1954  14 February - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II personally gives her assent by signing the Australian Flags Act (Amended) No 1 of 1954. (Click on) 

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1960 - 1979

1963  Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies authorises the flying of the Australian National Flag by night (under illumination) and day over the capital city, Canberra. The flying of illuminated national flags at night time is now an international practice.
1967  1 March - Introduction of the Australian White Ensign as the distinguishing flag for the Royal Australian Navy. It is to be "worn" (flown) in conjunction with the Australian National Flag which was adopted by the Navy when it was formed in 1911.

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1980 - 1999

1981  24 March - Flags Amendment Act 1981 describes Australian National Flag as a blue flag consisting of the Southern Cross, Commonwealth Star and Union Jack - our unique flag of "Stars and Crosses". 

1987  3 October - Five hundred Australian National Flags are paraded in Sydney’s "Welcome Home" march for Australia’s Vietnam War veterans. The flags commemorate the Australian service personnel who lost their lives as a result of the conflict. 

1996  28 August - The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Sir William Deane, proclaims 3 September as "Australian National Flag Day" to commemorate the day in 1901 on which the Australian National Flag was first flown.

Please click here to view the proclamation. 

1998  24 March - Flag Amendments Bill amends the Flags Act 1953 to ensure that the Australian National Flag can only be changed if the Australian electorate approves. The effect of this amendment is to confirm that the ownership and control of the Australian National Flag is indeed in the hands of the Australian people who it represents. 

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2000 - 2019

2000  11 April - Mr Alec Campbell, the last Gallipoli veteran, presents his own Australian National Flag to the Nation. His flag will be flown every year at the ANZAC Day ceremony, ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli (Turkey), on 25 April. 

2001  3 September - The centenary of the Australian National Flag is marked by ceremonies across Australia. Prime Minister John Howard delivers a speech at the Royal Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne where a re-enactment of the first raising of the Australian National Flag is held. Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth, conducts a flag raising ceremony at Government House, Canberra to mark the occasion. 

2001  20 September - Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth, proclaims the Centenary Flag Warrant. 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 of "Stars and Crosses" features the crimson thread of kinship, which symbolically links past and current generations to future generations of Australians. It will be used for future important national events.

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Few Australians know the unique and proud story of our flag –the only national flag to fly over an entire continent, but also the first to be chosen in an open public competition. Following federation in 1901, the new Commonwealth government arranged a competition to choose a flag for the new nation, and entries were submitted from nearly 1% of the population at that time. Five people tied for the honour of designing the Australian flag - Annie Dorrington, Ivor Evans, Leslie Hawkins, Egbert Nuttall, and William Stevens.  The winning design was unveiled on 3 September, which has been officially proclaimed as Australian National Flag Day. 


We’re all proud of our country and we can fly our flag to show it!