Flags Before Federation

Prior to Federation on 1 January 1901, the official flag of the Australian Colonies was the flag of Great Britain the 'Union Jack'. However, the British colonial Naval Defence Act 1865 authorised the establishment of naval defence forces by the colonies and specified that such naval vessels should fly a Blue ensign with 'the seal or badge of the colony in the fly thereof'. Such flags were designed and adopted by the colonies. The flags of the Australian colonies date from 1876 (New South Wales and Queensland), 1877 (Victoria) and 1895 (Tasmania and Western Australia). South Australia did not adopt a flag until 1904. Over time, use of these flags was extended beyond mere display on naval vessels.