Kiribati was formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, under the control of Great Britain until independence was granted on 12 July 1979.
The current flag was officially adopted at that time.
Before independence, a competition for a flag design was held. One design was based on the coat of arms. But the bird and the sun were enlarged and the width of the bands was smaller.However the people demanded that the original design be used. The bird and sun were smaller, the two halves of the flag were the same size and the various images on the flag were outlined in black.
There are three groups of islands in the republic, the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands. There are sixteen atolls in the Gilbert Island group, plus Banaba (the former Ocean Island).
In 1984 a government publication which had a picture of the flag also had a written description and of the meaning of the different elements displayed on the flag.
This flag is technically a heraldic banner since it was based on the shield from the coat of arms.