The Empire to Commonwealth Project

Colonial Ensigns:  Australia

This first flag is based upon memoirs, written in the 1880s, about an event in 1823.  It has never been authenticated.   

The second and third flags in this column are different interpretations of the same Murray River flag.  No flag, or picture of the flag, has ever been found.  The one description of the flag is ambiguous.  “It bears a red cross with four horizontal bars of blue, the cross being charged with five stars as emblems of the different Australian colonies, while in the upper corner in token of British connection is depicted the Union Jack.”  It was unofficial and used only in Victoria/New South Wales and South Australia.  Currently, tourist boats on the river fly a different version, similar to the third flag, but with the red cross on a blue background. 

The fourth flag was definitely in use  in the latter part of the 19th century but was never offical.  The Admiralty banned its use at sea in 1882 because of its similarity to a White Ensign, but it continued to be used on land until the Commonwealth of Australia was created.


Australia's official flag until 1954 when it became the flag of the Australian Merchant Navy.


The third flag appears to be a mis-interpretation of the badge on the governor’s flag, 1870-1876, incorrectly placed on a Blue Ensign; “ five yellow stars on a blue disc surmounted by a crown surrounded by a garland in the centre of a Union Jack”.


 This flag was unofficial.  Said to have been made to celebrate Queensland’s separation from New South Wales in 1859 and used until 1870.



 New South Wales


 South Australia


The second flag was very short lived and perhaps never made. It was officially proclaimed on 9th November 1875 and the proclamation revoked on 23rd November 1875.

This flag was shown at as a Tasmanian flag as a short-lived flag in 1875

The Tasmanian flags on World Statesmen we believe have a number of errors:
  1. The Blue Ensign with white cross and stars was announced in The Hobart Town Gazette Extraordinary, Vol LX Tuesday November 9th 1875, No 5080, together with the same design applied to the Red Ensign, and a gold lion for the governor’s Union Jack. 
  2. These were all cancelled by new announcement in the Gazette on 23 November 1875. 
  3. The governor was told that the Red Ensign should be plain, that the badge on the Blue Ensign and Union Jack should be the same, and that a red lion would be better than a gold lion. 
  4. The changes were not completed and finally announced until 25 September 1876.





/New Guinea 

The first flag is out of place here as it was used only until New Guinea became a territory of Australia. 

/British New Guinea 

  The second flag, if it ever existed, is also out of place for the same reason mentioned above.


/Territory of New Guinea


 Western Australia


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The Empire to Commonwealth Project would like to thank David Prothero for his valuable help and assistance in ensuring accurate information is provided to our Members about the Colonial flags below.  All the notes below have been kindly supplied by David Prothero.

Thanks also to James Alcock for his assistance in sections of the Colonial Ensigns.

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