The AFP shoulder patch and rank insignia

Since 19 October 2006, a single generic shoulder patch is worn on all AFP uniforms. This generic AFP shoulder patch consists of the AFP badge on a black background with subdued white piping.

AFP Shoulder Patch

AFP shoulder patch, Rejected AFP shoulder patch with wattle, Original Commonwealth Police shoulder patch
Left to right: AFP shoulder patch, Rejected AFP shoulder patch with wattle, Original Commonwealth Police shoulder patch.

For most of the 20th century, Australian police services followed the British police practice of uniformed officers displaying few tangible signs of police insignia, apart from the hat badge and chevrons or shoulder boards with insignia for senior officers.

In the 1970s, a gradual move occurred in which each Australian jurisdiction introduced some form of shoulder patch which identified the service the officer was from. This move was a copy of European and American practices. Some of the early styles contained only words, such as the patch worn by Commonwealth Police.

By the late 1970s, each State and Territory police had developed a shoulder patch that included either the service's logo, crest or jurisdiction's Coat of Arms (eg the ACT Police patch). Some police services would later change their patches for another design.

The first proposal for an AFP shoulder patch displaying the full Commonwealth Coat of Arms with wreath of Golden Wattle was halted just prior to issue as the Minister of the time thought the wattle on the patch made officers look like Texas Rangers. This resulted in the adoption of the pre October 2006 AFP shoulder patch.

In early 1980, the AFP had two styles of patches, the ‘General Policing’ patch and the 'Police Protective Service' patch which was worn by members undertaking protective duties. This patch was issued only to Protective Service Police at Government House in Canberra.

The 'Police Protective Service' patch was designed to be issued in conjunction with the ‘General Policing’  patch to identify General Duties from Protective Service police, but was rejected by the joint AFP Associations. It was in service only for a very short time in 1980.

Pre-October 2006 AFP shoulder patch

AFP patch pre 2006, Police Protective Service variations
Left to right: AFP patch pre 2006, Police Protective Service variations.

The pre October 2006 AFP shoulder patch has a line across the middle with the words & 'Australian Federal Police' below the line. Above the line is the Australian Coat of Arms (minus the wattle), which was designed and enacted in 1912.

The Coat of Arms consists of a shield composed of quarters representing the six States of the Commonwealth enclosed by an ermine border. The quarters provide a place for each of the States on the shield. Devices representing the six States are arranged in two rows on the shield. From left to right in the top row are the devices of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland (Quarters 1, 2 and 3) and in the bottom row are the devices of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania (Quarters 4, 5 and 6). The ermine border signifies the federation of the States into the Commonwealth.

The Crest of the Arms is a seven-pointed gold Commonwealth Star on a gold and blue wreath, which is a traditional element represented as a twisted ribbon or torse of the two alternate colours gold and blue. The supporters, the kangaroo and the emu, are two typical Australian creatures which were also included in the 1908 Arms. Both are indigenous to Australia and are regarded as suitable for heraldry, design and reproduction uses.

There are only two officially approved operational variations of the pre-October 2006 AFP shoulder patch:

  • "Subdued' patch. This dull-coloured patch is worn by tactical teams such as the Special Operations Team or Bomb Response; and
  • Chaplain's patch

AFP patch subdued picture, AFP patch chaplain
Left to right: AFP patch subdued picture, AFP patch chaplain.

AFP Rank Insignia

The Chevron

Chevron is an architectural term denoting the rafters of a roof meeting an angle at the upper apex. The chevron in heraldry was employed as a badge of honor to mark the main supporters of the head of the clan and it came to be used in various forms as an emblem of rank for knights and men-at-arms in feudal days.

One legend is that the chevron was awarded to a knight to show he had taken part in capturing a castle, town, or other building, and the chevron resembled the roofs. It is believed this resulted in its use as an insignia of grade by the military.

Chevrons have their origins in heraldry, however the method of denoting sub-officers rank is borrowed from the military, which first adopted it in the present form in 1813.

The first police force to use this method of indicating rank was the Royal Irish Constabulary.

The Chevron

St Edwards Crown

Also known as the Queen's Crown, St Edwards Crown is one of the most important items of Royal regalia and has been the official crown used on police, government and service insignia since Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, ascended the throne in 1952.

Bath Star

The Bath Star (pip) is an adaptation of the insignia worn by the Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of Bath. It is the highest order of British Knighthood dating back to 1603.

The Bath Star is composed of rays of silver, charged with an eight-pointed (Maltese) cross. In the centre, on a silver background, are three imperial crowns surrounded by a band in which the Order's motto, Tria iuncta in uno (Latin for Three joined in one) is inscribed. This central device is surrounded by two branches of laurel.

The motto was first used in the reign of James I (and VI of Scotland) and was historically thought to refer either to the Union of England, Scotland and France, or to the Union of England, Scotland and Ireland, or to the Holy Trinity.


The Tipstaff is a truncheon (baton) or rod. These tipstaffs were first carried in the 1700s and early 1800s.

Epaulette with insignia

Laurel Wreath

The wreath symbolises victory.

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