The flag of Papua New Guinea was adopted on July 1, 1971. The design was created by Susan Karike, a 15 year old, who won a national contest to design a new flag for the nation. The flag features a diagonal bi-color of red and black, with black on the hoist side (left). On the hoist, the Southern Cross is depicted in white stars, and on the fly (right side) there is a bird of paradise. Traditionally, the bird of paradise has been associated with Papua New Guinea and is their national emblem. It is also featured on their official coat of arms, which shows the bird of paradise sitting on top of a traditional spear and a kuhdu drum. The Southern Cross is used to show Papua New Guinea is in the southern hemisphere and it is possible to see the Southern Cross constellation from the country. Red and black have long been traditional colors of the tribes in Papua New Guinea, but they could also be symbolic of the nation’s former ties with Germany.
Past flags used in Papua New Guinea reflect the history of the nation itself. In the 19th century, Germany held the northern portion of Papua New Guinea, then known as German New Guinea, as a colony. In 1884, the United Kingdom colonized the southern half of the territory, and called it the Territory of Papua. To depict the two separate halves of the territory, two official flags existed. The northern flag reflected strong German influence, with the official German flag pictured in the hoist. In 1905, as part of the Papua Act, the United Kingdom transferred its Papua New Guinea holdings to the new nation of Australia. Following the transfer, the flag of the southern portion of the territory showed the traditional British blue background, with the Union Flag in the hoist and a white disk and crown featured in the fly. At the onset of World War I, the Australian south quickly captured the northern German colony, and from 1914 onward, the southern flag was used for the entire territory. The flag of Papua New Guinea saw two more changes, once in 1965, and again in 1970. Both of these flags featured the bird of paradise with the latter including the Southern Cross also.