Culture and heritage


Badge of NSW

The Badge of New South Wales as adopted in 1876

In 1869 the Imperial authorities in London required all colonial authorities to adopt and use on naval ships a badge or emblem that would be placed on a blue ensign to identify the particular colony or territory that a vessel belonged to. In 1874 the order was re-issued, and the badge shown above was adopted in New South Wales in 1876.

The Colonial Naval Defence Act 1865 allowed the British colonies to acquire their own naval vessels, and in accordance with the 1869 requirement the above badge was prepared. It was designed by the NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet with Captain Hixson, the President of the Marine Board. Captain Hixson argued for a design based upon the white ensign of the Royal Navy (essentially a red cross on a white field). This reflected not only Hixson's former naval service, but also the main source of military defence for the colony in the Pacific Ocean where other European powers were seeking out new colonies. It also commemorated the naval service of Captain Cook and many of the early governors of NSW.

The four stars represent the Southern Cross which mariners used to navigate in the southern hemisphere. The stars had been used in the emblems of NSW since the 1820s, and in its heraldry since the granting of the Arms of the Church of England Diocese of Australia in 1836.

The Lion was taken from the several lions on the Royal Arms, and designated by Barnet as the 'Lion in the South', either an allusion to the new British society developing in the south land, or a further representation of British naval power in the South Seas, or both.

The Badge of NSW thus combined elements of Royal, naval and colonial symbolism, satisfying the requirements of the Imperial naval authorities and giving NSW its first emblem of public authority free of any obvious convict associations. It remains the State Badge today, and is depicted on the State Flag (State Arms, Symbols and Emblems Act 2004, Schedule 2).

blazon: Argent, on a cross gules a lion passant guardant or, between four stars of eight points also or (Silver with, on a red cross, a golden lion walking forwards while looking at the viewer, between four gold stars each with eight points).

Some questions to research:

  1. What other emblems of NSW have incorporated a representation of the Southern Cross?
  2. Which other British colonies adopted a badge around the same time as NSW, and how similar or different are their designs?

Image Source: Gullick 1907: 10-13

Page last updated: 01 September 2012