The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok Senior from Thursday Island.
In 1992, Mr Namok won the Torres Strait Islander flag design competition and the flag was officially presented to the people of the Torres Strait at the sixth Torres Strait Cultural Festival on 29 May 1992.
WHAT DOES IT REPRESENT?
During his acceptance speech, Bernard Namok Senior described the symbolism of his design.
“What my design stands for is quite simple: The two green bands are the two mainland of Australia & Papua New Guinea. The blue is the waters of the Torres Strait and the symbol that identifies every Torres Strait Islanders anywhere, the Dhori (Headdress).
“The five points of the star are our group the Eastern, Central, Western, Port Kennedy group and the many that made the mainland their home. I would like to thank those of you who have accepted my design and in time, those of you who will.”
A year after his flag was formally recognised, Mr Namok died at the age of 31, leaving behind him a wife and four young children.
Bernard Namok Jr, the son of the late Bernard Namok, was just nine-years-old when his father designed the flag and has fond memories of watching his father sketch designs, which would then go on to become the symbol which represented the identity and unity of his people, flying on landmarks in both Australia and across the world.
Reflecting during a tribute to his father on the 21st anniversary of the presentation of flag to the people of the Torres Strait, Bernard Jr said:
“I remember when I was in primary school a competition was announced for all Torres Strait Islanders to design a flag to best represent our people.
“From that time onwards, I remember my dad sitting up late doing sketches. Night after night the dinner table would be filled with his sketches of the flag.
“Me and my sister were never allowed to touch any of it.”
In July 1995, the Torres Strait Islander flag and the Aboriginal flag were recognised by the Australian Government as official ‘Flags of Australia’ under the Flags Act 1953.
In 2020: 28 YEARS ON
Carry the Flag, a documentary directed by Danielle MacLean provides an insight into the lives of the Torres Strait Islander peoples, as well as the story of Bernard Namok Jr, the young man who sadly lost his father before he had the opportunity to see his legacy flying as high as we see it today.
This National Reconciliation Week, we acknowledge and pay tribute to Bernard Namok Senior and the 28th anniversary of the Torres Strait Islander Flag.
We observe its ongoing legacy and representation of the people of the Torres Strait.
More info on the Torres Strait Islander Flag