Flags at Half-mast position as a sign of mourning

There are occasions when direction will be given by the Australian Government for all flags to be flown at half-mast position as a sign of mourning.

Half-mast means that the flag is flown two-thirds of the way up the flagpole, with at least the height of the flag between the top of the flag and the top of the flagpole. Flags cannot be flown at half-mast on poles that are more than 45 degrees from the vertical, but a mourning cravat can be used instead (see below).
The flag is half-masted by raising it to the top of the mast, then slowly lowering it to the half-mast position, which will depend on the size of the flag and the length of the flagpole.

The flag must be lowered to a position more than its own depth from the top of the flagpole to avoid the appearance of a flag which has accidentally fallen from the top of the flagpole. When the Australian National Flag is flown at half-mast, other flags should not be flown above it.

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

Other flags on flagpoles or stands should also be at half-mast or should not be flown at all. Flags of foreign nations should not be flown unless their country is also observing mourning. The Flag should be raised again to the peak before lowering it for the day. When flying the Australian National Flag with other flags it should be raised first and lowered last.
Flags on government buildings should be flown at half-mast when directed by the Commonwealth Flag officer.

For government and public buildings, flags should be flown at half-mast during times of mourning for the following people and according to the following procedures.

Examples of these occasions are:

  • On the death of the Sovereign (Queen or King) the flag should be flown from the time of announcement of the death up to and including the funeral. On the day the accession of the new Sovereign is proclaimed, it is customary to raise the flag to the top of the mast from 11 a.m. until the usual time for closure of business
  • On the death of a member of the royal family – by special command of the Sovereign and/or by direction of the Australian Government
  • On the death of the Governor-General or a former Governor-General
  • On the death of a distinguished Australian citizen, in accordance with protocol
  • On the death of the head of state of another country with which Australia has diplomatic relations – the flag would be flown at half-mast on the day of the funeral or as directed
  • On days of national commemoration such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

Flags in any locality may be flown at half-mast on the death of a local citizen or on the day, or part of the day, of their funeral.

An alternate mark of mourning, used when half-masting is unsuitable, is to add a black cravat or ribbon to the top of the flag, at the hoist.

Source: Australian Government Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Source: Australian Government Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Half Masting on a Gaff-Rigged Flag Mast

The procedure for signalling a state of mourning on a gaff-rigged mast is the equivalent to the practice of half-masting a national or state flag on a free-standing flagpole. The symbolism is said to allow for the mythical black flag of death to fly above the national/state flag.

The national/state flag is raised to the peak of the gaff and then lowered, in a dignified fashion, to a point where the foot (bottom horizontal edge) is positioned, as near as possible, to halfway down the halyard between the peak and the cleat (tie off point). If there is sufficient space or clearance for the flag to be placed at this position, the flag should be lowered to a point one third of the halyard distance between the peak and the cleat.

When lowering the flag, it must be raised to fill the mast first, that is, to the peak of the gaff. The same procedure applies to a free-standing flagpole where the flag must be raised to the masthead and then lowered.

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