Australian Customs Flag
The Australian Customs Flag is the flag flown by Australian Customs Service vessels and sometimes on ACS buildings. Any vessel acting in a customs capacity must fly this flag. The current version is an Australian National Flag with the word "CUSTOMS" added in bold between the Commonwealth Star and the lower part of the Southern Cross. This flag has been used since 1988.
Colonial customs flags
English law has required customs vessels to fly a distinctive flag since at least 1784. The earliest recorded Customs flag in Australia is the New South Wales Customs House Ensign of 1832, which included in the Code of Signals for the Colony of New South Wales in the NSW Calendar and Post Office Directory for that year. The flag was a British Red Ensign, defaced with a gold crown over the letters CH in the fly.
A later New South Wales Customs Colonial Flag was described by a regulation published in the Supplement to the NSW Government Gazette, No. 193, Friday, 12 May 1882:
"The proper ensign for Customs shall be the red English ensign with the addition of a white cross, being in the form and proportion the same as the white ensign, but with the colours of the flag reversed, and with the letters CH in the outer lower quarter of the flag; and the pendant shall be the red pendant."
Commonwealth customs flags
The Customs Act 1901 was passed soon after federation, and like previous British and colonial legislation, required the use of a customs flag. The first flag appointed under this act was specified in Section 14 of the Customs Regulations, which were gazetted on 1 October 1901 in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 53, page 172:
"The Customs flag shall be the Blue Ensign,
with the addition in the fly of the letters "HMC" in boldcharacter, and the word 'Australia'".
An order in Council, dated 16 June 1904, altered the regulations to remove the word "AUSTRALIA" from the flag. The changes in the stars on the flag were also made congruent with the national flag, meaning the customs flag has changed 4 times.
The change to the current version of the flag was achieved by amendment SR297, published 17 December 1987 and commencing 1 January 1988.
- P. Chinn & K. Hannan, Flying the Customs flag, Manifest Winter 2005, Australian Customs Service ISSN 1329-7961. Page 27.