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Northern Territory (Australia)

Last modified: 2008-11-08 by jonathan dixon
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[Northern Territory Flag] image by Martin Grieve, 27 Apr 2006


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Description of the flag

The flag of the Northern Territory is divided vertically into two panels. At the hoist is a black panel 1/3 the width of the flag, bearing 5 white stars in the constellation of the southern cross. The stars have 8,7,7,6 and 5 points, as in the Victorian flag. The fly panel is a colour described as ochre or red ochre and contains a representation of a Sturt's Desert Rose with a black seven-pointed centre and seven white petals. One of the central points points downwards.

The southern cross (crux), representing a position in the southern hemisphere, is a common feature in Australian flags. The colours of ochre, black and white have been the official colours of the Northern Territory since 17 February 1964. Ochre as a colour is a kind of browny orange or yellow-brown, originally made from from clay tinted with iron (III) oxide, commonly found in much of the Northern Territory. The Sturt's Desert Rose (Gossypium sturtianum) was declared the floral emblem of the territory on 12 July 1961. The seven petals and points (on a normally five-petalled flower) represent the six states of Australia and the Northern Territory, in a similar manner to the seven points of the Commonwealth star on the Australian national flag.

The flag was designed as the Territory was preparing for self-government. Proposals from the public were requested and some were used by Melbourne artist Robert Ingpen as a basis for his design. The flag was first raised on the Esplanade in Darwin, the capital city of the Territory, and acknowledged by a 19-gun salute as part of the ceremonies celebrating the grant of self-government on 1 July 1978.

The flag is markedly different to those of the states, which all originated as British colonial ensigns, sometimes known as 'blue dusters'. The Territory did not have one of these, as it was never a colony in its own right, and so an original design was used. The basic design of a hoist panel bearing the southern cross set a precedent for the design of new Australian flags, being used for the ACT flag adopted in 1993 and in several proposals for new flags for the states.
Sources: NT government site; Department of Chief Minister site
Jonathan Dixon, 31 August 2005

The Australian National Botanic Gardens site gives more information on the flower used on the flag:

Sturt's Desert Rose has also been known as Darling River Rose, Cotton Rosebush and Australian Cotton. Although less widely used, the vernacular name, Australian Cotton, is appropriate as this species belongs to the genus 'Gossypium', which includes commercial cotton. However the hairs covering the seeds are much shorter than the lint of commercial cotton varieties.

In its natural habitat, Sturt's Desert Rose forms a relatively compact shrub about a metre in height but may reach 2 metres in cultivation. The leaves are dark green usually with black stipples, entire, round to oval in shape and about 5 cm long. The mauve petals are about 5 cm long with red bases forming a contrasting centre in each flower. Flowering is not strictly seasonal but reaches a peak in late winter. The fruit, a capsule, is about 1 cm long and contains many small seeds covered with short silky hairs.

Sturt's Desert Rose occurs naturally on stony or rocky slopes, or in dry creek beds in the southern part of the Northern Territory, north-eastern South Australia, western Queensiand, western New South Wales and in parts of northern Western Australia.

Ivan Sache, 15 August 2005