This is an NFSA Digital Learning resource. See all Digital Learning websites.
Mabo home
Indigenous Unity
Both the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Island people have developed symbols of their unity. In the Aboriginal flag (designed by Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from Central Australia), 'the black represents the Aboriginal people, the red the earth and the people's spiritual relationship to the land, the yellow the sun, the giver of life.' The flag was first flown in Adelaide (where Thomas worked for the Museum of South Australia) in 1971. During the Bicentennial celebrations in 1988, the flag, and other materials using its colours, became prominent as a symbol of pan-Aboriginal dissent from celebration of 200 years of European colonial occupation. In 1994, Thomas's flag was recognised by the Australian Government as one of the legal flags of Australia. The Torres Strait Islanders have more recently agreed on a symbol of their unity. In their flag, designed by Bernard Namok, 'the green represents the land, and the deri [headdress] is a symbol of all Torres Strait Islanders. The black represents the people, and the five-pointed star symbolises the island groups. The white of the star represents peace. The star, used in navigation, is also an important symbol for a sea-faring people.
Keywords: bicentennial, cultural preservation, culture, custom, Namok, Bernard, national identity, spirit, Thomas, Harold, Torres Strait Islanders

Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor