Sunday, January 22, 2012

Astronomical Symbolism in Australian Flags

By Duane Hamacher

Australia has three official flags: the national flag, the Aboriginal flag, and the Torres Strait Islander flag.  Everyone knows about the astronomical symbolism of the national flag: it features the smallest of all 88 constellations: Crux - otherwise known as the Southern Cross.

The national flag of Australia.

The four 7-pointed stars to the right are the five brightest stars in the constellation Crux: Alpha Crucis (Acrux), Beta Crucis (Mimosa), Gamma Crucis (Gacrux), and Delta Crucis.  The small 5-pointed star represents the fainter star Epsilon Crucis.

While some have thought the large, 7-pointed star below the Union Jack represents Beta Centauri - the right of the Pointer stars (the left being Alpha Centauri) - this is not the case.  The large star is the Commonwealth Star, also called the Federation Star, representing the Federation of Australia which came into force on the first day of 1901.

But did you know the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags also contain astronomical symbolism?

The Aboriginal flag of Australia is split into a black region on top, a red region on bottom, with a yellow disk superimposed in the centre.  It was designed by Harold Thomas, a descendent of the Luritja people of Central Australia, in 1971.

The Aboriginal flag of Australia.

The colour black represents the Aboriginal people, the colour red represents the red earth and the red ochre (which has a spiritual link to the land), and the yellow disc represents the sun - the protector and giver of life.

The Torres Strait Islander flag comprises green panels at the top and bottom with a blue panel in the centre.  Between the green and blue panels are thin black lines.  Superimposed in the centre is a white dhari (headdress) and a white 5-pointed star.  It was designed by Bernard Namok, from Thursday Island, in 1992 to represent the unity and identity of Torres Strait Islander people.  It was recognised as an official Flag of Australia on 14 July 1995.

The Torres Strait Islander Flag.

The colour green represents the land, the colour blue represents the ocean, and the colour black represents the Torres Strait Islander people  - showing their close connection to the land and sea.  The white dhari is a headdress worn by dancers and the 5-points of the white star represent the five major island groups of the Torres Strait.  It also represents a star for navigation, which was very important to the sea-faring people of the Torres Strait.  The colour white represents peace.


We respectfully acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and extend our respects to Harold Thomas and Bernard Namok, the designers of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, respectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment