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Tasmania (Australia)

Last modified: 2010-02-12 by jonathan dixon
Keywords: australia | tasmania | blue ensign | lion |
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[Tasmanian flag]image by Martin Grieve, 27 Nov 2008

See also:


State flag

The Tasmanian state flag was created as a colonial flag - a British Blue Ensign with the badge of the colony added to the blue field. Because some of the Australian state badges were originaly created to represent the Governor (as distinct from the Colony) they generally showed some element of British royal heraldry - the main criteria being that it be different from similar badges used in other parts of the Empire. Tasmania uses one red heraldic lion (Cyprus used two lions and Kenya a heraldic lion standing)
Ralph Kelly, 19 September 1999

In the middle of November 1875 the Governor received a Colonial Office Circular which had been sent to all Governors on 23 August. Among other things it noted that the badge which should 'be adopted in all cases' was the 'distinctive device on the Seal of the Colony, exclusive of the Royal Arms'. As a consequence of this Circular the announcement concerning flags in the Gazette of 9 November [see below] was revoked in the Gazette of 23 November, and the Colonial Secretary in Tasmania wrote to the Colonial Office on 29 November amending the Despatch of 14 October. The device on the Public Seal, three female figures, was deemed entirely unsuited as a badge, and the same lion badge [as originally chosen for the Governor's flag] was resubmitted, though it was now red, with no torse, and facing the other way.

The Admiralty had already approved the gold lion badge but, in a letter sent to the Colonial Office on 27 March 1876, raised no objection to the revised lion. A letter from the Colonial Office to Governor Weld approving 'the Device to be borne on the Flag to be flown by the Governor of Tasmania and on the fly of the Blue Ensign' was sent on 19 April 1876, and announced in the Hobart Gazette on 25 September. The badge for the Governor's Flag consisted of a red lion passant, fimbriated in black, on a white roundel surrounded by a green garland. This same badge, minus the garland, was to be used on the Colonial Blue Ensign for government vessels, while merchant ships were to fly the undefaced British Red Ensign.

After the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia the Tasmanian Blue Ensign became the State Flag, though this was not formally recorded until 3 December 1975, when the Governor, Sir Stanley Burbury, proclaimed it to be the distinguishing flag of the State of Tasmania.

Sources: National Archives (PRO) CO 283/58, CO 323/298, CO 323/318, CO 323/321, CO 323/326 and notes compiled by Ralph Kelly from the same documents on microfilms PRO No.2402 and PRO No.2405 in the Mitchell Library of the State Library of New South Wales
David Prothero, 27 November 2008

It's my understanding that the lion on the Tasmanian flag was redrafted recently (a year or two ago). I can't remember where I heard this, but it may well have been on this list. However, when I was visiting my parents at Christmas time, I didn't see any of the new designs. Trust me, I looked carefully, and all the flags I saw had the old lion.

This could mean that manufacturers haven't caught up... or it could mean that they are still wearing out stocks of old flags. Or it could mean that the original information was wrong.
Robert M. J. Czernkowski, 19 April 1999


1875 flag

1875 Blue Ensign
[Tasmanian blue ensign, 1875] image by Martin Grieve, 27 Nov 2008

1875 Red Ensign
[Tasmanian red ensign, 1875] image by Martin Grieve, 27 Nov 2008

When Sir Frederick Weld became Governor of Tasmania in 1875 he found that nothing had been done to implement the Colonial Office Circular of December 1865, which introduced colonial Blue Ensigns, nor the Circular of September 1869, which introduced defaced Union Jacks for Colonial Governors. On 14 October he wrote to the Earl of Carnarvon.

'I have the honour in reference to your Lordship's Circular 28 May 1874 now to transmit to you a copy of the flag which has been selected by the advice of Ministers as the flag to be used by the Governor of this Colony and also of those selected for the use of Government vessels and for mercantile vessels belonging to Tasmania. I regret the delay which has taken place, which I will ask your Lordship to believe, has not been occasioned by any forgetfulness on my part.'

The flags were also announced in The Hobart Town Gazette Extraordinary of 9 November 1875.

[The first flag announced was the Governor's Flag.] Secondly, it was decreed that the Colonial Blue Ensign should be the British Blue Ensign charged with a white cross throughout and bearing a white Southern Cross in the fly (three stars in the upper quarter and two in the lower quarter). The third flag proclaimed was to be used by vessels that were registered in Tasmania, but which were not owned or permanently employed by the government. This flag was to be the British Red Ensign charged with a white cross throughout and, like the Colonial Blue Ensign, bearing a white Southern Cross in the fly.

Sources: National Archives (PRO) CO 283/58, CO 323/298, CO 323/318, CO 323/321, CO 323/326 and notes compiled by Ralph Kelly from the same documents on microfilms PRO No.2402 and PRO No.2405 in the Mitchell Library of the State Library of New South Wales
David Prothero, 27 November 2008