HISTORY OF THE FLAG OF THE STATE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
The black swan has been associated with Western Australia from the earliest times. Vlamingh, who explored the Swan River in 1697, gave it the name on account of the number of swans found upon it, and for a number of years after the foundation of the settlement, it was generally referred to as the Swan River Colony.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the Black Swan should come to be accepted as the emblem of the State, though no record can be found of any early official pronouncement on the subject.
It was in use in the eighteen thirties, only a few years after the establishment of the Colony. It appears on Bank notes, issued in the early thirties on account of shortage of specie, and on the "Swan River Guardian" newspaper, first published in 1836; the Royal Arms, with the Swan below, appears at the head of the first issue of the Western Australian Government Gazette of 20th February, 1836.
A design showing the Black Swan was selected for the first Western Australian postage stamps, issued in 1854.
This same device was used on the Ordinances of Western Australia in 1858, and appears on reprints of earlier Acts which were made in that year. On 17th August, 1869, an Order in Council was issued authorising the Governors of Colonies to fly the Union Flag with the Arms or Badge of the Colony in the centre.
A circular from the Secretary of State notified the Governors of this fact, and Frederick A. Weld, Governor of Western Australia, in a despatch dated 3rd January, 1870 submitted a sketch of the badge which it was proposed to adopt-ie, a black swan on a yellow background. He stated with regard to it "This Colony at its commencement was usually known as the Swan River Settlement, and the Black Swan is represented upon its seal, and has always been considered as its special badge, or cognizance."
The use of this badge was confirmed by a later Governor, William C. F. Robinson, in a despatch dated 27th November 1875.
The use of the badge of Western Australia (on the Blue Ensign) began some time prior to 1870, following the Admiralty Letter of 16th January 1866 prescribing the use of a defaced Blue Ensign by vessels belonging to or permanently in the service of Colonial Governments.
In September, 1912 when the Royal Warrant was issued granting Armorial Ensign and Supporters to the Commonwealth of Australia, the Black Swan was used as the emblem of Western Australia.