Divided diagonally from the upper hoist-side corner to the lower fly-side corner: the upper triangle is red with the soaring Raggiana Bird of Paradise and the lower triangle is black with the Southern Cross of four white larger five-pointed stars and the smaller star.
Red and black have long been traditional colors of many Papua New Guinean tribes. Black-white-red was the color of the German Empire flag, which had colonized New Guinea prior to 1918. The bird-of-paradise is also found on the national coat-of-arms.
Prior to independence, the Australian Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea used a vertical tricolor flag with blue, yellow and green bands, along with the bird of paradise and southern cross. Designed by a Mr. Holman, it was referred to as the Pagini. It had a mainly negative reception, due to its appearance as that of a "mechanically contrived outcome", thus the alternate proposal by Susan Karike was chosen instead. The blue was said to represent the sea and islands of New Guinea, the Southern Cross was a guide for the travelling peoples, the gold represented the coastlines, mineral wealth, and unity, and the green represented the forested highlands and mainland, with the Bird of Paradise representing the unification under one nation.
The Southern Cross shows that it is a country in the Southern Hemisphere and can be seen in Papua New Guinea.