Before the decolonization of the British Empire, the Cocos Islands national flag was the British Union Jack. With the establishment of the British Commonwealth in 1955, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands became a territory of Australia and the nation’s flag became the flag of Australia. The Australian flag is blue with a British Union Jack in the upper left quadrant. Directly underneath the Union Jack, in the flag’s bottom left quadrant is a large, white, five-pointed star representing the Commonwealth. The right half of the flag is decorated with four medium-sized stars and one small white star in the shape of the Southern Cross constellation.
The Cocos Islands are associated with an additional flag, the territorial flag. It is green with a green and brown palm tree in a gold circle in the upper left quadrant. A gold crescent moon is centered in the middle of the flag and the right side of the field is decorated with four gold, five-pointed stars. The palm tree symbolizes the islands’ numerous palms that supported a prosperous copra industry for many years. The gold crescent moon represents 80% of the island’s Malay population who are Sunni Muslim. Finally, the Southern Cross indicates the nation’s connection to Australia. It was adopted in 2004 and designed by Mohd Ian Minkom. According to some sources, the flag was in use earlier than that date.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands is an external territory of Australia located in the East Pacific Ocean. The islands were discovered and claimed for Great Britain by William Keeling in 1609. In 1825, Scottish trader John Clunies-Ross landed on the island, dug wells, planted fruit trees, and left with the intention of returning to build a copra plantation. In the meantime, the notorious Englishman Alexander Hare, who had been driven out of Borneo for trading in slaves and keeping a harem, settled on Home Island with his harem of 40 Malay women to start a copra plantation. In 1828, John Clunies-Ross, his wife, children, and mother-in-law took up residence on South Island. A conflict resulted that continued until Hare was ruined financially and left the islands in 1831.
Clunies-Ross established himself as head of state of the Cocos Islands where he remained the unchallenged ruler until the country was annexed by the British in 1855. The Clunies-Ross family remained in power until 1978 when Australia forced them to sell their interests in the islands for 2.5 million pounds.