Flying and use of the Australian National flag

The Australian National Flag may be flown on every day of the year. The following guidelines apply to the Australian National flag generally.

Dignity of the flag

  • The flag should be treated with the respect and dignity it deserves as the nation’s foremost symbol.
  • The flag should not be allowed to fall or lie on the ground.
  • The flag should not be used to cover a statue, monument, or park for an unveiling ceremony; to cover a table or a seat; or to mask boxes barriers, or the space between the floor and the ground level on a dais or platform.
  • The flag should not be used to cover a statue, monument, or park for an unveiling ceremony; to cover a table or a seat; or to mask boxes barriers, or the space between the floor and the ground level on a dais or platform.
  • When the material of a flag deteriorates to a point where there it is no longer suitable to use, it should be destroyed privately, in a dignified way.

Flying and handling

  • When flown in Australia or on Australian territory the Australian National flag takes precedence over all national flags.
  • The flag should not normally be flown in a position inferior to that of another flag or ensign.
  • The flag should not be smaller than that of another flag or ensign.
  • The flag should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • The flag should always be flown aloft and free as close as possible to the top of the flag mast, with the rope tightly secured.
  • When the flag is raised or lowered, or when it is carried in a parade or review, all present should face a flag and remain silent. Those in uniform should salute.
  • The flag should be raised no earlier than first light and should be lowered no earlier no later than dusk.
  • The flag may only be flown at night when illuminated.
  • Two flags should not be flown from the same flagpole.
  • The flag should not be flown upside down, not even as a signal distress.

Displaying the Australian National flag

Whether the flag is displayed flat against the surface (either horizontally or vertically) on a staff, on a flag rope, or suspended vertically in the middle of a street, the canton should be in the uppermost left quarter as viewed by the person facing the flag.

In the case of the Australian National flag, the Union Jack should be seen in the top left quarter of the flag.

Even when the flag is displayed vertically, this rule must be followed although to the casual observer the flag appears to be back to front. The reason for this is the canton is a position of honour on the flag.

When the Australian National flag is displayed alone on a speaker’s platform, it should be flat against the wall or on a staff on the right of the speaker or he or she faces the audience.

When displayed on a flag rope (a ‘halyard’), the flag should be as close as possible to the flag top, with the flag rope tight.

If the national flag is vertically suspended in an east-west street, the canton should be towards the north. In a north-south street the canton should be towards the east.

Use of flags on conference tables

Should it be decided to place the flags of nations on a conference table, a single flag representative of each nation present should be placed in front of the leader of that country’s delegation.

Flying the Australian National flag alone

When the Australian national flag is flown alone on top in front of a building with two flagpoles, it should be flown on the flagpole to the left of a person facing the flag.

When flown alone on top of or in front of a building with more than two flagpoles, the Australian National flag should be flown in the centre or as near as possible to it.

Flying the Australian National flag with other national flags

When the Australian National flag is flown with the flags of other nations, all the flags should, if possible, be the same size and they should be flown on flagpoles of the same height. National flags should never be flown together on the same flagpole. According to international practise, no national flag should fly above another in peacetime.

The Australian National flag must, however, take the position of honour. Further, unless all the flags can be raised and lowered simultaneously, the Australian National flag should be raised first and lowered last.

When flying with only one other national flag, the Australian National flag should fly on the left of a person facing the flags.

national flag in center

In a line of several national flags, and there is an odd number of flags and only one Australian National flag is available, the Australian National flag should be flowing in the centre.

If there is an even number of flags and only one Australian national flag is available, the Australian National flag should be flown on the far left of a person facing the flags.

flown at each end of the line

If there is an even number of flags and two Australian National flags are available, one should be flown at each end of the line. The flagpoles must be of uniform height.

When crossed with another national flag, the Australian National flag should be on the left of a person facing the flags and his staff should be cross in front of the staff of the other flag.

national flag in center

In a semicircle of flags, the Australian National flag should be in the centre.

In an enclosed circle of flags, the Australian National flag should be flown on the flagpole immediately opposite the main entrance to the building or arena.

Flying the Australian national flag with state and other flags

When flying the Australian national flag with State flags and/ or other flags (such as local government flags, house flags and club pennants) in a line of flagpoles, the order of the flags should follow the rules of precedence. The Australian National flag should always be flown on the far left of a person facing the flags. Except for a flagpole fitted with a gaff, or house flag or club pennant should never be flown above the national flag.

For example, if the Australian National flag was being flown with a State flag and a local government flag, the Australian National flag would be flown on the far left (the position of honour], the State flag to the right of it and the local government flag to the right of the State flag.

Is there are two Australian National flags, one can be flown at each end of a line of flags.

image 16

In a single or double row of flagpoles, arranged at right angles from a structure, such as a building or memorial, the Australian National flag should be flown on the far left flagpole nearest the kerb. If two Australian National flags are available, the second flag should be flown on the flagpole on the right nearest the kerb.

image 17

In a double row of flagpoles, where there is no formal focal point, such as a building or memorial, the Australian National flag should be flown on the diagonal corners of the arrangement, with all other flags being arranged according to precedence as for a single row.

Flying the Australian national flag on at yardarm

When the Australian National flag is being displayed from a flagpole fitted with a yardarm and is flying with another national flag, the Australian National flag should be flown on the left of the yardarm and the flag of the other nation should be flown on the right of the yardarm, as used by a person facing the flags.

If the Australian National flag is being displayed from a flagpole fitted with the yardarm and his flying with a State flag and a House flag or Pennant, the Australian National flag should be flown from the top of the flagpole, the State flag on the left of the yardarm and the House flag or Pennant on the right side of the yardarm, as viewed by a person facing the flags.

flag on a flagpole with a gaff

Fly the Australian national flag on a flagpole with a gaff

If the flagpole is fitted with a gaff, the Australian National flag should be flown the peak of the gaff, which is a position of honour, even though the Australian National flag is lower than the flag flying from the top of the flagpole. This international tradition originates from the days of sailing ships, when it was necessary to keep the flag free of the ships rigging.

The next following position of prominence is the peak of the flagpole, when the left hand side of the yardarm, then the right hand side, as viewed from the front of the flagpole/ gaffe combination.

Carrying the Australian National flag in the procession

Carrying the Australian National flag in the procession

In a line of flags carried in single file, the Australian National flag should always lead. Flags are carried so that the right hand of the carrier is above the left hand.

flags carried abreast

In a line of flags carried abreast, it is preferable to have an Australian National flag carried at each end of the line.

Carrying the Australian National flag in the procession

If, however, only one Australian national flag is available, the following applies-

  • If there is an odd number of flags the Australian National flag should be carried in the centre of the line.
  • The flag next highest is the in the order of precedence should be flown to the left of the Australian National flag (as seen by a viewer facing the bearers), the next ranking flag to the right of the Australian National flag and so on.
an even number of flags the Australian Nation

If there is an even number of flags the Australian National flag should be carried on the right-hand end of the line facing the direction of movement (that is, the left end of the line as viewed by a person at facing the flags).

Lowering the Australian National flag in a procession

Lowering the Australian National flag in a procession

The Australian National flag should not be lowered as a form of salute even when it is appropriate for other flags or ensigns being carried in a procession to be so lowered.

Flying the Australian national flag at half mast

Flags are flowing in the half-mast position as a sign of mourning.

To bring the flag to the half-mast position, the flag must first be raised to the top of the mask (the ‘peak’) then immediately lowered slowly to the half-mast position. (This position is estimated by imagining another flag flying above the half-mast flag – in European mythology, the flag flying above is the flag of death.) The flag must be lowered to at least a position recognisably half-mast so that it does not appear simply to have slipped down from the top of the flagpole. An acceptable position would be when the top of the flag is a third of the distance down from the top of the flagpole.

When lowering the flag from half-mast position, it should first be briefly raised to the peak, then be lowered ceremoniously.

Under no circumstances should a flag be flying at half-mast at night, whether or not the flag is illuminated.

Here are some examples of the type of information we can supply around flag etiquette:

  • All Flags fall into a number of categories. Most important of which is the national flag. Every Australian owned vessel is entitled to fly our national Flag which is the blue ensign. The next most important is a club flag or house flag of the owner. Ships often have these to indicate which line a ship might belong to. Then comes flags for making signals. This might be a code flag Q if you were entering a foreign port and wanted customs clearance or a cocktail flag to tell others in an anchorage that you were inviting others over for a drink.
  • Having established that some flags outrank others there is also seniority for the position on a boat that flags are flown. In general, the stern outranks the bow. Higher out ranks lower. Starboard out ranks Port. Thus most boats fly the national flag (the flag with the highest seniority) from the peak of a gaff boom at the stern if it has one (position 1 in the picture) or a staff at the stern (position 2 lower at the stern). If neither of these is available the national flag will be flown from the mast peak (position 3 in the picture).
  • The house flag or club burgee would normally be flown at the masthead (position 3 in the picture) but if that were not possible then at the bow (position 4 in the picture) and if that were not possible then in the starboard rigging (position 5 in the picture).
  • Signals would normally be made in the starboard rigging (position 5 in the picture) but if they were occupied then the port rigging (position 6 in the picture). If only one flag halyard were available then the flags would be stacked so that the most senior national flag is on top and other less senior flags in descending order are underneath.
  • When yacht racing all the flags mentioned so far should be lowered, firstly to allow race management the opportunity to use these spaces for their own use, but more importantly to tell other boat users that you are racing and those good manners would allow you to pass through rather than exercising other rights of way that might apply.
  • “Dressing Overall” is a procedure for festive occasions when all the signal flags are strung from the bow to the masthead, between masts if there is more than one, and then down to the stern. This is only done alongside the wharf or at anchor. There is a challenge to mix the flags up in a colourful rather than a meaningful way and as such, it is pretty bad form to include national flags in the string.
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