The Commonwealth Bank and the Note Issue: 1920–1960
First Post-War Notes: A Fresh Approach
By the early 1950s designs for a new series of currency notes were being developed. The £1 note was to carry King George VI's profile. Other notes were to portray prominent figures in Australia around the time of Federation.
The designs were not used. King George VI died in 1952 and Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne.
Amongst the early designs were those portraying Sir Henry Parkes (the 'Father of Federation') on a 10 shilling note and Sir John Monash (World War I soldier, engineer and administrator) on a £10 note.
The 1953/54 Series
A new series of currency notes was issued in 1953/54.
The focus of design shifted from the Monarchy and pictorial representations of an emerging Australian economy to portraits of individuals judged to have helped shape Australia through its short history.
Intricate design and engraving was the principal anti-counterfeiting device.
These notes circulated until the introduction of decimal currency in 1966.
Matthew Flinders (1774–1814), shown on the 10 shilling note, sailed through Bass Strait. He then circumnavigated Tasmania, made the first complete survey of the southern coast of Australia and eventually circumnavigated the continent. Flinders was the first to use the name, 'Australia', systematically in his writings.
The backs of some of the new notes symbolised aspects of Australia's progress beyond its economic development. The first Parliament House, Canberra, was on the 10 shilling note.
In contrast to the three series of notes in the 1920s and 1930s, only the £1 note bore the monarch's portrait. Explorers Sturt and Hume were represented, in a coin-shaped format, on the back of the note.
Sturt, who arrived in Sydney in 1827, explored the western areas of New South Wales. The Darling River was discovered and the Macquarie, Murray and Murrumbidgee river systems explored. Later explorations took him as far inland as the Simpson Desert, South Australia.
Hume explored the southern districts of New South Wales and, with William Hovell, travelled overland to Corio Bay (Port Phillip). He accompanied Sturt on the expedition that discovered the Darling River. The Murray River was once called the Hume River in his honour.
Sir John Franklin (1786–1847), shown on the £5 note, was Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania from 1837 to 1843. He was influential in establishing an education system and founding the Tasmanian Natural History Society, the first scientific Royal Society established outside Britain. He died while exploring the Arctic.
The prominence of rural activities in Australia's exports ensured their continued representation in the new series with the £5 note showing a mix of agricultural and pastoral industries.
Aboriginal culture was symbolised for the first time on our notes with a central motif on the back of the £5 note showing artefacts such as the boomerang.
Arthur Phillip (1755-1814), shown on the £10 note, was Captain-General of the First Fleet to arrive at Botany Bay and then Port Jackson in 1788. The first Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, he returned to England in 1793, confident that the new colony would succeed.
Industry and science were represented on the £10 note with symbols of electrical power, chemistry, a pair of scales and gears.
The female figure on the £10 note is from a photograph of a model, in the RBA archives known only as Mrs Nartiss; she holds a pair of dividers and a sheet of paper, symbolising research.