Harold Thomas

Harold Thomas attended Willunga High School (1959-1962)

Harold Joseph Thomas, a Liritja man from Central Australia, is a member of the Stolen Generations. He was taken from his home in Central Australia to St Francis Boy’s Home, in Adelaide’s Semaphore South, with 5 other aboriginal boys. When he was 12, he was given sixpence and told to catch a bus into the city of Adelaide where he met foster parents, Rev. Donald and Gwyneth Wallace. He moved with them and their 2 biological daughters to Willunga in 1959, living in the St Stephen’s Rectory.

“From the time he first held a pencil, Harold Thomas loved to draw. He was fascinated by all the wonders of nature; the glory of a spring sunrise to the harsh reality of a seeming never-ending drought.”

Harold’s foster parents were supportive and caring and they encouraged him to pursue his passion for art at Willunga High School and later at the South Australian School of Art (from 1965).

Harold designed the Aboriginal flag during the land rights movement of the early 1970s, seeing it as a rallying symbol that could be used during the land rights protests. It was first flown at Victoria Square on 12 July 1971 to commemorate National Aborigines Day (this has become NAIDOC week). However, he never imagined that it would become as iconic a symbol as it is today.

The Aboriginal flag was proclaimed as a Flag of Australia in 1995, this was followed by a series of court actions by Harold to be recognised as the creator and copyright owner. The copyright for the Aboriginal flag was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia in 2022 and is now one of Australia’s National flags, is free to use and must be treated with the same respect as other national flags.

“The red is the red ochre of my childhood the desert where I grew up,” Harold explains. “The yellow stands for hope and for light that makes things grow.”

“The black is a reminder to be proud of who you are, to be proud of your blackness.”

Harold Thomas – Deadly Vibe
THE BOYS FROM ST FRANCIS: An interview with Harold ThomasWakefield Press