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The History of The Australian Flag

Lt. James Cook (to be promoted to Captain) landed on the Australian shore at Botany Bay on April 28, 1770. It was he who raised the Union Flag in the name of King George III.

His was the first recorded landing on the Australian east coast, and the act of raising the Union Flag at Botany Bay represented taking possession of the land in the name of the King.

In 1788 on the 26 of January, Governor Phillip raised the Union Flag on the founding of the first white settlement in Australia, at Sydney Cove. This date then became Foundation Day a national holiday, which is now celebrated as Australia Day.

Since Cook raised the Union Flag, there have been only two major variations in the official flag of Australia.

The Union Flag of Great Britain was not the 'familiar' Union Jack that we all know. The cross of St. Patrick had not yet been added to the then called "First Union Flag".

The first change to the flag came in 1801, when the St. Patrick's Cross was added, forming the Union Jack.

The second change came 131 years after Cook had landed. It was after the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament, when the Australian Flag, with slightly different stars was used as our national symbol.


The Australian National Flag consists of a dark blue background (this was just the designers choice) with the Union Jack contained in the upper hoist (top left corner).

The Federation Star points towards the center of the Union Jack and has seven points. Each point represents the six Australian States and the Commonwealth Territories.

The five stars occupying the rest of the flag represent the Southern Cross. The four larger stars, have seven points, and are equally sized. The small star has 5 points.

Official sizes are as follows: 91cm x 45cm; 137 x 69cm; 183cm x 91cm; 274cm x 137cm.


The St George Banner (the red +)was originally the National Flag of England.
The Banner of St Andrew (the white x) was then added in pursuance of a Royal Proclamation, dated 12 April, 1606. The result was the Union Flag which would have been flown by Captain Cook when he set foot at Botany Bay in, 1770.
November 5, 1800 was when the King in Council approved the addition of the Cross of St Patrick (the red x) to the Union Flag. This formed the Union Jack as we know it today.


The most dominant symbols in the Australian national Flag are the five stars of the Southern Cross. This constellation of stars has a long history, credit being given to the French astronomer Augustin Royer who named it "Crux Australia" in 1679. It was known however long before that. Dante, in his great work Purgatorio (1313) mentions it and gave to the four main stars of the group the symbolic moral virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude. There are of course five main stars in the group known as Aplha Crucis, Beta Crucis, Gamma Crucis, Delta Crucis and Eplsilon Crusis.

The original Flag unfurled in 1901 had the stars with nine, eight, seven six and five points respectively. A change was made in 1909 when all the stars, except the small Epsilon, were amended to seven points each. The probable reason for this was the ease of manufacture but it also standardised the symmetry of the stars as the Commonwealth Star had been increased from six to seven points in 1908 when Papua became part of the Commonwealth.

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