Flag Flying Protocols

Flying and Handling THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL FLAG

When flown on Australia territory the Australian national flag should:

  • takes precedence over all national flags, and should not be flown in a position or size inferior to that of any other flag or ensign
  • be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously, while all present face the flag silently (those in uniform should salute)
  • always be flown aloft and free as close as possible to the top of the flag mast, with the rope tightly secured
  • raised no earlier than the first light and lowered no later than dusk
  • illuminated if it is flown at night
  • not be flown upside down, not even as a signal of distress.

Displaying the Australian National Flag

Whether the flag is displayed flat against a 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 a 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 that the canton is the 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 a staff on the right of the speaker as he or she faces the audience.

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

Flying the Australian National Flag alone

When the Australian national flag is flown alone on top of or in front of a building with:

  • two flagpoles, the flag should be flown on a flagpole to the left of a person facing the flag
  • more than two flagpoles, the 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 the international practice, 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.

In a line of a several national flags, and where there are an odd number of flags and only one Australian national flag is available, the Australian national flag should be flown 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.

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

When crossed with another national flag, the Australian national flag should be on a left of a person facing the flag.

In a semi-circle of flags, the Australian national flag should be 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. With the exception of a flagpole fitted with a gaff, a house flag or a club pennant should never be flown above a 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.

If there are two Australian national flags, one can be flown at each end of the line of flags.

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 from the far-left flagpole nearest the kerb. If two Australian national flags are available the second flag should be flown on the right nearest kerb.

In a double row of flagpoles where there is no formal focal point (i.e. 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.

Carrying the Australian National Flag in a Procession

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

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

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 in the order of precedence should be flown to the left of the Australian national flag (as seen by a viewer facing the flag bearers), the next ranking flag to the right of the Australian national flag and so on.
  • 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 the movement (that is, left end of the line as viewed by a person facing the flags).

Flying the Australian National Flag at half-mast

Flags are flown 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 mast (the ‘peak’) then immediately lowered slowly to the half-mast position. An acceptable position would be when the top of the flag is a third of the distance down from the top of the flagpole, so that it does not appear simply to have slipped down from the top of the flagpole. 

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

Occasions when direction will be given by the Sovereign and/or Commonwealth government for flags to be flown at half-mast include on the death of:

  • the Sovereign (King or Queen) – the flag should be flown from the time of announcement of the death up to and including the funeral
  • a member of a royal family
  • the Governor-General or a former Governor-General
  • a distinguished Australian citizen, in accordance with protocol
  • the head of state of another country with which Australia has diplomatic relations – the flag should be flown on the day of the funeral or as directed

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.

The flag should be treated with the respect and dignity it deserves as the nation’s foremost national symbol. The flag should not be:

  • used to cover a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony
  • used to cover a table, seat
  • used to mask boxes, barriers or the space between the floor and the ground level on a dais or platform
  • allowed to fall or lie on the ground
  • flown when in damaged, faded or dilapidated condition (such flags should be destroyed privately, in a dignified way).
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