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Quarantine and Inspection Service (Australia)

Last modified: 2021-08-26 by ian macdonald
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A defaced ANF that I had no idea existed was the Quarantine flag. The Manly Q Station has a 'prop-replica' Quarantine flag on display, made up to the recollections of former employee. There is also a genuine example in the National Museum of Australia. Apart from this, I have been completely unsuccessful in finding any other references to this flag & AQIS has not answered my written enquiries about it (Quarantine was enacted in 1908).

The National Museum one is from South Australia (donated circa 1987) in fair condition, used on the service launch Aedes: It is a post-1934 pattern ANF with a disc badge in the lower centre, discoloured grey from it's original 'quarantine yellow'. On it, the design is shown in outline, being an unfouled stocked anchor oriented 1:30 to 7:30, crossed by an unwinged caduceus oriented 10 o'clock to 4 o'clock. A small imperial crown sits in the 12 o'clock position. The badge is large, about 4/9ths flag-width whereas the Q Station replica flag has a badge of the same design, but is smaller, around a quarter of the flag width.
Jeff Thomson
, 2 May 2012

"An unwinged caduceus" (particularly when associated with the medical profession) is more likely to be a "staff of Ascepius"
Christopher Southworth, 3 May 2012

The device on the Q Station Quarantine flag replica definitely has no wings yet has two serpents wound around it, so I don't know whether it is intended to be a caduceus or a staff of Asclepius.
Jeff Thomson
, 23 October 2012

The only source document relating to this flag is in NAA file 1863037, page 243. From the Dept of Health, it's clear that they had no idea about this flag in use by their service launches. They even speculate the the authorisation for the flag was a flow-on from the Customs Act, and neither the PM's nor A-G's Depts knew otherwise (although they doubted it). Dept of Health did not involve themselves with the post-Flags Act discussions, and may have let the Q-flags fade out of use through 'natural attrition'.
Jeff Thomson
, 26 October 2012

This ensign was prescribed in legislation from 1911 to 1935. It appeared at Regulations 64, 71 and 74 in 1911, 1915 and 1927 respectively, and ceased with the making of the 1935 Regulations. Similarly-worded prescriptions have been found in past Quarantine laws of the British Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga. From 1935 the Australian Quarantine ensign was kept in use by launch crews at various Quarantine Stations, in some cases until launch operations ceased in the 1980s. The prescription wording remained unchanged from 1911 to 1935 as 'Quarantine Ensign for Launches. Launches while on Quarantine duty shall fly the Quarantine ensign. The Quarantine ensign shall be a blue ensign showing on a circular yellow disc or badge the crown over an anchor crossed by a serpent-coiled rod.'
Jeff Thomson
, 15 October 2015

The few references to Australia's Quarantine ensign in government memos refer to 'blue ensign', so do not clarify whether the writers meant British, or Australian Blue Ensigns. The flag in the National Museum and the replica flag at North Head Quarantine Station Museum are Australian National Flags with the Quarantine yellow badge in the flag lower centre. So although this may be taken to be the usual design, there may also have been British or Australian Blue Ensign variants with the yellow badge in the true fly centre of the flag, particularly before the Second World War.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service was dissolved in 2012, its functions moving to other government agencies. The Quarantine Act 1908 and any laws made under that Act were wholly repealed on 16 June 2016, and replaced by amended biosecurity laws first enacted in 2015. So both the Commonwealth Government agency which the Quarantine ensign represented, and the legislation behind that agency, no longer exist.
Jeff Thomson, 25 August 2021

Quarantine Ensign of New Guinea

The Australian Quarantine Regulations including this ensign prescription were applied to New Guinea from June 1924 to November 1956. Australia adopted new Quarantine Regulations in 1935 that no longer prescribed a Q-ensign, but New Guinea continued with the ones already in force until replacing them in November 1956. So this ensign was prescribed for over twenty-one years in New Guinea after it was repealed in Australia, although there are no known reports of it being flown at any time. In comparison, I have not found a Q-ensign prescription in the Quarantine Regulations of Papua.
Jeff Thomson, 9 August 2016