Funeral Flags and Protocols in Australia

Funeral Flags and Protocols in Australia

Honouring the Departed

Funeral flags play a significant role in paying tribute to the departed, serving as symbols of respect, honour, and remembrance. In Australia, the use of flags at funerals, particularly military funerals, follows specific protocols that ensure dignity and reverence for those who have passed away. At Harry West Flags, we have made numerous different types of funeral flags over the years and feel honoured to be able to contribute and pay our respects to such meaningful ceremonies. We use a variety of different finishes for funeral flags, and can accommodate any requests to ensure your flag is fit for your specific purpose. The most common way to finish a funeral flag is with a header made from bunting to ensure the coffin is not scratched by any clips or hardwear (see image below). This blog delves into the importance of funeral flags, the protocols associated with their use, and their role in Australian funeral traditions.

The Importance of Funeral Flags

Flags at funerals are more than just decorative elements; they hold deep symbolic meaning. For military personnel, a flag draped over the coffin signifies the deceased's service and dedication to their country. It represents the nation's gratitude for their sacrifices and the high esteem in which they are held. Beyond military funerals, flags can also be used to represent the deceased's affiliations, such as national, state, or organisational flags.

Protocols for Military Funerals

In Australia, military funerals follow strict protocols to honour the deceased with the utmost respect. Here are the key elements involved in the use of flags at military funerals:

  1. Flag Draping:

    • The Australian National Flag is draped over the coffin of deceased service members. The Union Jack is placed over the head and left shoulder of the deceased, and the flag is draped evenly over the entire coffin. If the deceased served in a specific branch of the military, the respective service flag might also be used.
  2. Casket Guard:

    • A casket guard, usually composed of members of the deceased's unit, may stand vigil over the coffin. This practice symbolises respect and the watchful care of comrades.
  3. Folding the Flag:

    • At the conclusion of the funeral service, the flag is carefully folded in a specific manner by the honour guard. This folding procedure is done with precision and respect, and the folded flag is then presented to the next of kin as a token of the nation's gratitude. From a comprehensive guide to folding the Australian Flags for displaying at funerals, read more here.

Protocols for Non-Military Funerals

For civilians, the use of flags at funerals can also hold significant meaning, though the protocols are generally less formalised than in military funerals. Here are some common practices:

  1. National or State Flags:

    • The Australian National Flag may be used to cover the coffin of any deceased Australian citizen at their funeral. The canton should be draped over the ‘left shoulder’ of the coffin, representing the heart. The flag should be removed before the coffin is lowered into the grave or, at a crematorium, after the service. The deceased’s service headdress, sword or baton, awards or medals if any and family flowers may be placed on the flag covering the coffin. Care should be taken during the interment to maintain the dignity of the flag. Families may choose to drape the coffin with the Australian National Flag alone, The Australian Flag and another National Flag draped horizontally over the top and bottom halves of the coffin, or the flag of their state.
  2. Organisational Flags:

    • If the deceased was part of a particular organisation, such as a sports club or a community group, the organisation's flag might be used to represent their affiliation and contributions.
  3. Symbolic Displays:

    • Flags can also be displayed at the funeral venue, either inside or outside, to create a respectful and solemn atmosphere.


The use of funeral flags and adherence to protocols is a poignant way to honour the deceased, reflecting their service, affiliations, and contributions. In Australia, military funerals have well-established traditions that ensure the highest level of respect and dignity for those who served their country. For civilians, the use of flags provides a meaningful tribute that resonates with the deceased's identity and legacy.

Whether for military personnel or civilians, funeral flags serve as powerful symbols of honour, remembrance, and respect, ensuring that the memory of the departed is preserved with the dignity they deserve. By following established protocols, families and communities can pay their final respects in a manner that is both respectful and deeply meaningful.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions relating to funeral flags.