The Reserve Bank Confirms New $5 Note will Honour First Australians
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has officially confirmed the $5 banknote is in for a major redesign. In an announcement on Thursday, the banknote issuing authority revealed that the currency, which features an etching of Queen Elizabeth II will be redesigned to celebrate “the culture and history of the First Australians. The RBA said the decision had been made after “consultation with the Australian Government”, which lent its support to the change.
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“The Reserve Bank has decided to update the $5 banknote to feature a new design that honours the culture and history of the First Australians,” the statement read. This new design will replace the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The other side of the $5 banknote will continue to feature the Australian Parliament.”
The latest announcement puts an end to the long-standing question of whether King Charles will replace his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on the Australian legal tender. The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has adorned the $5 banknote since July 1992, when it was introduced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her accession. Her Majesty was previously on the 1 pound banknote, first released in 1953 and the $1 paper banknote which debuted in 1966, both of which were subsequently phased out by the RBA. Following Her Majesty’s death in late 2022, the RBA announced that it would be reviewing the current $5 banknote design.
“The Bank will consult with First Australians in designing the $5 banknote,” Thursday’s announcement read. “The new banknote will take a number of years to be designed and printed. In the meantime, the current $5 banknote will continue to be issued. It will be able to be used even after the new banknote is issued.”
Importantly, the government has confirmed that a monarch will remain on all Australian coins, despite the new design seeing Queen Elizabeth II’s likeness removed. Treasurer Jim Chalmers, who was part of the consultation process, said he supported the verdict.
“We were consulted on this decision, it is a decision for the RBA to take but the governor consulted me in reaching this decision,” he told the ABC. “I welcome the decision taken … to ensure that the new $5 note recognises and celebrates the culture and history and heritage of Indigenous Australians. It’s important to remember that the monarch will continue to be on our coins.”
While the landmark decision has been labelled an ‘attack’ on society by Opposition leader Peter Dutton, it’s not the first time controversy has surrounded the design. When the current $5 banknote was announced in 1992, the RBA came under intense scrutiny for replacing prominent humanitarian aid worker Caroline Chisholm with the monarch. Chisholm, a philanthropist best known for supporting immigrant female and family welfare in Australia, had featured on the note since it was introduced in 1967.
“The Reserve Bank defended its decision to include the portrait of the Queen, explaining that the monarch’s portrait always appeared on at least one banknote; as Australia remained a constitutional monarchy, it was still appropriate to depict the Queen on Australia’s banknotes,” the Reserve Bank of Australia museum’s website reads.
The new $5 banknote will join a growing list of Indigenous-inspired designs that have come into legal tender over the past few decades. According to the RBA, Australia’s first polymer banknote, a $10 issued as a one-off in 1988, included examples of ancient and contemporary Aboriginal art, while the current $50 banknote features author, activist, inventor, musician and preacher, David Uniapon, a Ngarrindjeri man from South Australia. The current $5 banknote showcases the Forecourt Mosaic, which is based on a Central Desert dot-style painting by Michael Nelson Jagamara titled ‘Possum and Wallaby Dreaming’.