Australia’s central bank will consult with First Australians on new banknote design

The new five dollar design will honour the culture and history of First Australians, and phase out UK monarchs from Australian banknotes.

6 February 2023

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following contains names of some people who are now deceased.

As Australia prepares to replace its current five dollar banknote, featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the Reserve Bank of Australia has revealed that the new note will highlight Indigenous history, rather than featuring another UK monarch, like King Charles III. The Australian Government will support the design change.

While the look of the new banknote has not yet been finalised – a process Reserve Bank says will take a number of years from design to print – a press release listed previous Australian paper currency that has featured Indigenous figures, culture and imagery.

The first example was a one dollar banknote released in 1966. It included a depiction of an artwork from the Arnhem Land artist David Malangi Daymirringu, showing the Gurrmirringu mortuary ceremony. When it was first released, Reserve Bank did not receive permission to repurpose the artwork. A 2016 piece in The Conversation explains how a photograph of the original painting was passed on to Reserve Bank and eventually onto the bank’s designer, Gordon Andrew. It details the resulting settlement reached with the Reserve Bank following the breach in copyright.

The release also lists other historical examples, including Australia’s first polymer banknote – a 10 dollar note issued in 1988. It states the design “included examples of ancient and contemporary Aboriginal art, echoing the appreciation of the art’s significance, both nationally and internationally.”

“The current 50 dollar banknote features author, activist, inventor, musician and preacher, David Unaipon, a Ngarrindjeri man from South Australia.” Meanwhile, the current five dollar banknote “showcases the Forecourt Mosaic, which is based on a Central Desert dot-style painting by Michael Nelson Jagamara titled Possum and Wallaby Dreaming”.

The central bank has said it will consult with First Australians in designing the new five dollar note. It also confirmed that one side of the note will show the Australian Parliament, and that the current five dollar banknote, featuring Queen Elizabeth II, will continue to be issued while the new note is being designed. “It will be able to be used even after the new banknote is issued,” the release adds.

The news of the updated design has sparked debate and praise. Some, like Lynne Groulx, CEO of the Native Women's Association of Canada, also used the opportunity to call attention to the Change The Bill campaign, which calls for the inclusion of Indigenous women on Canadian currency.

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Australian Banknote, Five Dollars (Copyright © by benjaminnolte from Adobe Stock)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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