Tragedies on the Murray
A sombre look at some of the paddler fatalities on the Murray
The Murray River Flag is flown from some weirs, paddle steamers and other vessels of the Murray. The history is not well known, but it is believed to have originated in 1850 when the formation of the Murray River League. The oldest known reference to the flag was when it was hoisted at Goolwa to honour the first paddle steamer to go into service on the Murray River, the Mary Ann's maiden voyage in 1853.
The flag is the only or at least one of the only flags that have been named in honour of a river. The four blue strips are believed to represent the four major rivers of the Riverina, the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and the Darling. The darker colourings of the Upper Murray Flag represent the darker waters of the upper Murray River.
The red cross and five stars are most likely based on the National Colonial Flag for Australia that itself was based on the British White Ensign, featuring four white stars for the Southern Cross and assumably the four colonies at the time, WA, SA, NSW and Van Diemen's Land (TAS). Again, without knowing the history, I would assume the fifth star represents VIC (declared 1851) but before the separation of QLD in 1859. Alternatively the stars could simply be a representation of the Crux Australis (Southern Cross).
The flag carries the state badge of the coat of arms that has a golden lion passant guardant on it.
Featuring a piping shrike, an symbolic bird that seems to be based off a Magpie subspecies the White-backed Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen telonocua), and the colouration of a Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca). The name Piping Shrike was once used for the White-backed Magpie that adds more confusion.
The Eureka Flag was flown at the battle of the Eureka Stockade in 1854.
While it has links to the struggle for democracy, it can also be linked as a symbol of persecution at Lambing Flat in June 1861.
Usage by many far right groups has tainted the symbolic nature of the flag from unity to exclusion.