Reserve Bank of Australia

The Reserve Bank and Reform of the Currency: 1960–1988

Inflation and the Note Issue

High inflation was a major problem during the 1970s and 1980s. One result of inflation was a call for new coins and larger-denomination notes.

The life of $1 and $2 notes became progressively shorter as they circulated more rapidly to make small-value transactions. The replacement of these notes by coins – a $1 coin in 1984 and a $2 coin in 1988 – helped reduce costs of maintaining the currency in sound condition.

A $50 note was issued in 1973 and a $100 note in 1984.

These higher-denomination notes added to the range of symbols of Australian society on our decimal notes with representations of Australia's contribution to medicine, veterinary science, geology and astronomy based on the underlying themes of research and discovery.

Higher-denomination decimal notes

The $50 and $100 notes were the first higher-denomination notes on issue for many years.

Image showing sketch of Lord Howard Walter Florey Image showing sketch of Sir Ian Clunies Ross

Image showing the front of a $50 banknote. Image showing the back of a $50 banknote.

The front of this $50 note, designed by Gordon Andrews, depicted laboratory research and academic life with a portrait of Lord Howard Walter Florey.

Lord Howard Walter Florey (1898–1968), an Adelaide-born pathologist, played the vital role in the development of penicillin as an antibiotic drug. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1945. Between 1960 and 1965, Florey was the President of the Royal Society, a position also held at one time by Sir Isaac Newton. He was also a founder of the Australian National University.

The back of the $50 note symbolised research into the environment and outer space with a portrait of Sir Ian Clunies Ross.

Sir Ian Clunies Ross (1899–1959), a veterinary scientist, is best remembered for his work on parasites affecting livestock and his leading role in the CSIRO. An outstanding public speaker, he sought to bring scientific discoveries to wider public attention.

Image showing the front of a $100 banknote. Image showing the back of a $100 banknote.

Image showing sketch of Sir Douglas Mawson. Image showing sketch of John Tebbutt.

The ‘discovery’ theme underpinned designs by Harry Williamson for the $100 note.

Sir Douglas Mawson (1882–1958) was featured on the front of the $100 note. Mawson's scientific contributions ranged over a wide area of geology and physics and included three expeditions to the Antarctic. The design depicted Mawson in his Antarctic gear against a background of geological strata formations which he studied in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

John Tebbutt (1834–1916) was a pioneer astronomer who helped to lay the foundations for Australia's involvement in astronomy with the discovery of major comets. Tebbutt's portrait is thus set against representations of his observatory at Windsor, New South Wales, and elements to symbolise the sky and comets.