Have you ever wondered why the flags on the Camberwell and Hawthorn Town halls and outside the Camberwell and Kew libraries are flying at half-mast? 

Often it doesn’t seem like an obvious day where it would happen, such as Anzac Day or Remembrance Day, but we do it to show respect for certain anniversaries or people who have passed.

Some of the more recent reasons why we've flown our flags half-mast were for the:

  • Anniversary of the Apology to Members of the Stolen Generations on Tuesday 13 February 
  • Anniversary of the 2009 Victorian Bush Fires on Wednesday 7 February 
  • Bourke Street State Memorial Service on Tuesday 23 January 
  • State funeral for the Right Honourable Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE QC on 8 November 

According to the Australian War Memorial website, this practice is thought to have originated on the high seas as a sign of respect or honour. The lowering of a ship’s sails was done to show important people respect and offer them the choice to board the ship. Other sources say it was done to announce a death at sea.

These days, when flags are flown at half-mast it is a sign of mourning or remembrance. We are guided by the Commonwealth Flag Network, a site that lists the days where flying a flag at half-mast is appropriate.  When we do so, you’ll only see it lowered during the day. According to the Australia National Flag Protocols, a flag should never be flown half-mast at night, even if illuminated.

So in future, if you see our flags flown at half-mast, you can check the Commonwealth Flag Network’s site and learn the reason why.