In 1853, a paddle steamer named the Mary Ann journeyed down Australia’s longest river. It was the first steamboat on the Murray, and when it arrived at Goolwa a flag was raised in its honour. A written description of that flag survived: It had four blue stripes, a Union Jack in the upper left corner, and a red cross with five stars on it.
160 years later, two different reconstructions of that flag are flown by ships in Murray–Darling basin. The Upper Murray flag (top) is flown in Victoria and New South Wales, while the Lower Murray Flag (bottom) is flown in South Australia. Both flags feature all the elements from the written description, but each interpretation is slightly different.
The two flags have also taken on different meanings. The stars on the Upper Murray flag are sometimes said to represent five major floods, while the stripes on the Lower Murray flag symbolize the Murray, Darling, Murrumbidgee, and Goulburn rivers.