The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok from Thursday Island. It was the winning entry in a design competition, held as part of a Cultural Revival Workshop, organised by The Islands Coordinating Council in January 1992.
The flag was officially presented to the people of the Torres Strait at the sixth Torres Strait Cultural Festival on 29 May 1992.
The son of the late Bernard Namok, Bernard Namok Jr, was just nine-years-old when his father designed the flag. In a tribute prepared to his father on the 21st anniversary of the presentation of flag to the people of the Torres Strait, Bernard Jr said:
I remember when I was in primary school a competition was announced for all Torres Strait Islanders to design a flag to best represent our people. From that time onwards, I remember my dad sitting up late doing sketches. Night after night the dinner table would be filled with his sketches of the flag. Me and my sister were never allowed to touch any of it.
I remember the announcement of the winning design. Dad was called from work to the local TAFE for a morning tea and was awarded the winning prize of a small cheque. That was back in 1992. He was not a man of many words, but a man of many smiles and also a quiet achiever.
Dad sadly passed away in ’93, he was a young 31 year old…. Dealing with the loss of a father is hard enough, but knowing what Dad has done and the pride that runs through our family, our blood, and thanks to his creation now runs through the veins of all Torres Strait Islanders, brings me great happiness.
As the eldest son of the designer, the one that carries his name, it makes me very proud to see my Dad’s hard work that was once sketched in pencil all over the kitchen table now flying on top of museums, embassies and parliamentary buildings in places I’ve visited all over the world.
Rest in peace Dad, your legacy lives on.
Listen to Bernard Jr’s tribute to his father and the flag: