Buy State Flags from Allstate FlagsBuy US flags from Five Star Flags
This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

South Australia (Australia)

Last modified: 2006-08-12 by jonathan dixon
Keywords: south australia | blue ensign | red ensign | southern cross | southern cross and pointers | stars: southern cross | stars: southern cross and pointers | man: aboriginal | britannia | bird: magpie | piping shrike | magpie | d |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

[South Australian flag]
image by Martin Grieve, 15 Jun 2006

See also:

Description of the flag

The South Australian state flag was created as a colonial flag - a British Blue Ensign with the badge of the colony added to the blue field. Upon Federation a simpler design than before was adopted. The 1904 design shows in heraldic form a local bird - what was called a Piping Shrike, a form of magpie. There has been some speculation that the stylisation of the bird was inspired by the Imperial German (and Austrian) heraldic eagle.
Ralph Kelly, 19 September 1999

Detail of the badge

[South Australian badge, 1904 onwards] image by Martin Grieve, 15 Jun 2006

On 13th January 1904, South Australia abolished the Aborigine-Britannia badge and replaced this with the present-day Shrike badge. Ausflag suggests that the reason for this was that the badge was too difficult to reproduce, although no source is quoted for this assertion.

David Prothero wrote to me:

An interesting point about the 1904 shrike badge. When the design was being circulated in the Colonial Office, the following comment was written on the minute; “This looks to me too much as if “Made in Germany, and I expect HM will think so too.” This was presumably written quite unaware that, according to Carol Foley in The Australian Flag [fol96], the designer of the badge is not known, but may have been an artist who was a friend of the Prussian Consul in Adelaide, whose seal was the Prussian eagle.
I have drawn-up the badge detail from scratch copying the version shown in Flaggenbuch.
Martin Grieve, 15 June 2006

It is interesting that Miss Foley states that in her recent book, as the Government of South Australia mentions in its official protocol web site that the original drawing of the badge was carried out by Robert Craig, a teacher at the Adelaide School of Art in 1904 and that there was a later drawing in 1910 by Harry Pelling Gill, Principal of the School.

The same Government web site gives precise proportions of the flag, describes the yellow disk as symbolic of a rising sun and provides the following blazon of the badge: “the Rising Sun, Or, with thereon an Australian Piping Shrike displayed Proper, and standing on a staff of gumtree raguly, gules and vert” and the proper name of the bird as “The Piping Shrike or White Backed Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen leuconota)”.

As Martin pointed out, the State Flag was authorised by Proclamation on 13 January, 1904, but the same Government source says the State Badge of South Australia was gazetted the following day, 14 January, 1904, which is an apparent contradiction as their description of the flag is described as comprising a Blue Ensign with the State Badge centrally situated in the fly. Therefore, according to that source, the flag itself can not have been official until the following day!

(1) The Insignia & Emblems of South Australia, web site of the Government of South Australia, Department of Premier and Cabinet Protocol Unit, last updated 02 July 1998, consulted 24 June 2006.
(2) University of South Australia, Teacher records 7511 and 37, consulted 26 June 2006.
(3) The Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, consulted 25 June 2006.
Colin Dobson, 26 June 2006

Size of the badge

It is worth noting that whilst the various badge defacements on the fly of blue or red ensigns of The United Kingdom's Overseas Territories flags were enlarged ca 1999, this was not the case for any of Australia's State flags or flags of Governors, which retained the 4/9 hoist width = diameter convention.
Martin Grieve, 1 March 2006

Not quite in the case of state flags if you don't mind me saying so, Martin. I have the disc on the flag of South Australia at 9/20 (which is close enough to 4/9 and taken from The State Flag of South Australia received in September 1994)
Christopher Southworth, 1 March 2006

My South Australian flags both have 4/9 disks. I'm guessing that the 9/20 measurement came from some bureaucrat actually getting out a yard stick, measuring a flag and then calculating what they perceived the disk to be.
Clay Moss, 1 March 2006

1870-76 flags

1870 proposals

Blue Ensign
[Proposed South Australian blue ensign, 1870] image by Martin Grieve, 9 Jun 2006

Red Ensign
[Proposed South Australian red ensign, 1870] image by Martin Grieve, 9 Jun 2006

David Prothero sent me a scanned document which shows proposed Red and Blue Ensigns for South Australia. The document is entitled “Enclosure in South Australia Despatch No.32. 14th April 1872”

The page shows 2 flags – a Blue Ensign at the top, and a Red Ensign beneath. Both flags are illustrated at the overall ratio of approx. 2:3, with a squarish Union flag in the canton and a 4 star version of the Southern Cross in the fly.

Directly beneath the Union, and most noticeably shifted towards the fly are the 2 “pointer” stars in the neighbouring constellation of Centaurus. We do not know if these flags were ever actually hoisted, but we do know that they were most certainly proposed and feel that they are worth reproduction.

Both flags have a large cross-out through them on the document.
Martin Grieve, 9 June 2006

July 1870. Colonial Office proposed that the badge (as proposed for governor’s flag) "should be borne on an escutcheon in the fly of the Blue Ensign".
Colonial Office also suggested that the badge proposed for the Blue Ensign should similarly be used in the Red Ensign carried by Merchant Vessels registered in South Australia.
David Prothero, 9 June 2006

1870 flags as used

Blue Ensign
[South Australian blue ensign 1870-1876] image by Martin Grieve, 11 Jun 2006

Detail of the badge
[South Australian badge 1870-76] image by Martin Grieve, 11 Jun 2006

The Ausflag web site shows a South Australia Blue Ensign from 1870-1876 defaced in the fly with a black disk charged with a 5 star Southern Cross and the 2 pointer stars to the left, the disk being 4/9 of the overall flag width. This is more than likely to be erroneous however as David Prothero informs me that he has seen an Admiralty flag sheet in the National Archives CO 323/318 dated 1874-1875 which has a white Southern Cross and 2 pointers on a blue disk, in other words, the disk is “imaginary”
Martin Grieve, 11 June 2006

Red Ensign
[South Australian red ensign 1870-1876] image by Martin Grieve, 11 Jun 2006

Although it was a mistake on the British Admiralty's part, South Australia most probably also flew a Red Ensign, but we are unsure as to what the defacement on this flag would have been. It could have featured the Southern Cross and 2 pointers on a black disk as we illustrate here or the stars placed directly on to the fly with no disk.
Martin Grieve, 11 June 2006

1876-1904 flag

[South Australian blue ensign, 1876-1904] image by Martin Grieve, 14 Jun 2006

Detail of the badge
[South Australian badge, 1876-1904]
image by Martin Grieve, based on 1881 sheet provided by David Prothero, 13 Jun 2006

From 1876 to 1904 South Australia used a different badge from the one now on its flag. It represented Britannia talking to an aborigine. South Australia also used the red ensign with the same badge from 1876 to 1901 as civil ensign. Source: R.D. Kelly, Australian State Flags (1865-1904): A British Admiralty Legacy, report of the XIII ICV, Melbourne, 1989. [kly93]
Mario Fabretto, 6 July 1997

The Flag of South Australia was changed in 1876, although David Prothero observes that: “Although the decision to change the badge was proposed in March 1876 the Britannia badge was not introduced until 28 November 1878.”

The badge defacement was an allegorical scene depicting Brittania (representing the white settlers) arriving on the shore and greeted by an Aborigine seated before a hill and holding a spear. The Ausflag website mentions that “On the rocks behind the Aborigine appears a rock carving of a kangaroo.”

There was no defaced red ensign.
Martin Grieve, 13 June 2006