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Construction Details of the Australian Flag

Last modified: 2010-02-12 by jonathan dixon
Keywords: australia | southern cross | stars: 7 points | construction sheet |
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Construction Details

The Australian flag is defined by the Flags Act 1953, the current version of which can be found at ComLaw. The construction details are defined in the schedule to the act.
Jonathan Dixon, 30 September 2008

All the stars have an inner diameter (circle on which the inner corners rest) of 4/9 the outer diameter (circle of outer corners), even the 5-point star. The positions of the stars are as follows:

  • commonwealth star - centred in lower hoist,
  • alpha - straight below centre fly 1/6 up from bottom edge,
  • beta - 1/4 of the way left and 1/16 up from the centre fly,
  • gamma - straight above centre fly 1/6 down from top edge,
  • delta - 2/9 of the way right and 31/240 up from the centre fly,
  • epsilon - 1/10 of the way right and 1/24 down from the centre fly.
The positions of alpha-epsilon are given with respect to the centre of the square fly, and distances in terms of hoist width of the flag.
Christopher Vance, 26 February 1998

The outer radius of the 7-pointed stars in the Southern Cross should be 1/14 the width of the fly (the "height" of the flag). For the 5-pointed star it should be 1/24. The Commonwealth star should be 3/20. In each case, the inner radius should be 4/9 of the outer radius.
Jonathan Dixon, 3 February 2003

A good template of the Australian flag can be found at Below is a different representation: [Construction Sheet for Australian flag]
by Mello Luchtenberg and Jonathan Dixon, 3 February 2003

Comparison with New Zealand's flag

The Australian and New Zealand flags are both blue with the Union Jack in the canton and the southern cross in the fly. The federation star in the lower hoist is unique to the Australian flag. When comparing the representations of the southern cross on the flags of Australia and New Zealand, we find that

  • The cross is slightly "taller" on the Australian flag (the distance between Alpha and Gamma Crucis is 2/3 of the hoist, rather than 3/5).
  • In the NZ case, the positioning of Beta and Delta Crucis is described in terms of a line which forms an angle of 82º with the vertical, which is the same as the angle formed by the line between Beta and Delta in the Australian flag, to an accuracy of 1 degree.
  • The abovementioned line is slightly higher on the NZ cross than on the Australian - splitting the vertical line between Alpha and Gamma 2:1 compared to roughly 11:6 (actually 1759:961).
  • On the NZ flag, the line between Beta and Delta is cut by the vertical line in the ratio 7:6, compared with 9:8 for the Australian flag.
  • The overall horizontal distance between Beta and Delta is greater on the Australian flag, 17/36 (roughly 0.47) of the hoist length, compared with roughly 0.43 of the hoist length for NZ. This is entirely due to the NZ cross being smaller overall, as the width of the cross is 17/24 (roughly 70.8%) of the height in the Australian case, compared with roughly 71.5% for NZ.

As a summary, the Southern Cross on the Australian flag is larger than the NZ one, and has a slightly thinner shape. The intersection of the "arms" forms the same angle in both flags, but is both slightly lower and slightly more horizontally central than the intersection in the NZ cross, which is more skewed towards the hoist, although these differences are fairly negligible.

Of course, the main difference between the two crosses is that the New Zealand version has all the stars with 5 points, in red rather than white, and has one less star, meaning the New Zealand flag contains two less stars overall.
Jonathan Dixon, 12 February 2003, 31 December 2006


Australian flag with "straight-lined" stars

[Variant of the Australian flag with image by António Martins, 29 Jul 2008

If made according to the official statistics, star Epsilon Crucis on the flag of Australia (as with the other stars) should have a centre imaginary circle equal to four-ninths the outer, however, many illustrations show it with a standard five-pointed shape. I occurred to us therefore, to ask whether the official prescription was observed in Australian flags actually flown?
Christopher Southworth, 27 July 2008

I have not closely examined this question, but from my casual observations, it appears that most better quality printed flags do show the stars correctly drawn. However, it seems that the practice has developed of "straight-lining" the star points for sewn (appliqué) flags. Thus, not only is the Epsilon star made in the style of a US star, but all the seven pointed stars are also made with a series of straight stitches, effectively making the inner circle have a smaller diameter than the official 4/9ths of the outer diameter. This effect is partly for the convenience of sewing and partly an affectation that the stars then "look better". In drawn images, the smaller inner diameter stars is probably due to the limitations of drawing tools such as found in Microsoft Word - which can only draw a US style 5-pointed star automatically and can only construct a 7-pointed star with a series of lines.

In the case of lower quality flags, the size, shape and placing of the stars becomes very varied and casual. It is not unusual to see a cheap imported flag with the Federation Star the same size as the Crux Australis stars, which are often positioned smaller in the field than is correct.
Ralph Kelly, 28 July 2008

Where my really new or modern all sewn (Australian made) are concerned, most are made with stars appliquéd via the "straight line method" as Ralph refers to it. With that said, I have several older all sewn samples where the builder took time to appliqué the 7 pointed stars correctly. In one of those cases, the 5 pointed star is also sewn on the flag correctly while on others, it is straight lined.

Others may have a different experience, but it has been my observation that if a batch of all sewn/appliquéd flags is made up specifically for the Australian government or military, they will have stars that are fully correct in every way. We have a brand new white ensign and a brand new "naval jack" (the Australian national flag) in Dalat's connection. Both are built with fully correct stars. Additionally each piece has a special label on the heading identifying them as "government" property. We also have 3 fully sewn RAAF flags at our disposal, all with correct stars.
Clay Moss, 28 July 2008

Clay Mas commented that this flag is not used under "strict government requirements". However, that is not the case with flags used by leading politicians. As recently as a few days ago, the Australian Treasurer (Federal Finance Minister) was interviewed on television at Parliament House in front of two Australian sewn flags which clearly showed the same "straight edging" of the Federation Star. I believe that all similar internal display flags used by federal ministers are the same. The flags were probably supplied by John Vaughan of Australiana Flags who has previously confirmed to me that this treatment of the stars is both for sewing convenience and because they "look sharper".
Ralph Kelly, 29 July 2008

Errors in specifications

Note that the official specification drawing in the first edition (1995) of the Government publication "Australian Flags" [ozf95] had a typographic error which showed the inner diameter of the Federation Star to be 4/5ths of the outer diameter, rather than 4/9ths. This was corrected in the second edition, but the original drawing is still sometimes reproduced.
Ralph Kelly, 28 July 2008

A more significant error in specification occurred with the Flags Act 1953 which had an error in Schedule 1. The outer diameter of the Commonwealth Star (also known as the Federation Star) was described as three-eighths of the width of the flag, rather than the correct three-tenths. This required the Parliament to pass an amendment in Act 58 of 1954 to fix the error.
Ralph Kelly, 29 July 2008