Reserve Bank of Australia

A New Era – Polymer Currency Notes: 1988 Onwards

The First Polymer Note

In 1985, the RBA decided to trial the new technology in a Commemorative $10 note. This note was to be the RBA's contribution to the celebration of Australia's Bicentenary in January 1988.

Image showing the front of an early design of the Commemorative $10 note Image showing the front of an early design of the Commemorative $10 note

Image showing the back of an early design of the Commemorative $10 note Image showing the back of an early design of the Commemorative $10 note

These early designs were variations on the First Settlement theme chosen in the mid 1980s.

The RBA released the Commemorative $10 polymer currency note on Australia Day 1988.

Photograph showing re-enactment of eleven ships of the first fleet sailing into Sydney Harbour on 26 January 1988

Eleven ships of the First Fleet Re-enactment sailed into Sydney Harbour on 26 January 1988 to start the Australia Day celebrations.

Harry Williamson, designer of the $100 decimal note, was chosen to lead the design team, with a theme of 'settlement'.

This Commemorative $10 note was the first banknote in the world to be printed on a non-fibrous polymer substrate. It incorporated a Diffractive Optically Variable Device (DOVD), which featured Captain Cook.

Image showing the final design featuring a First Settlement theme on the front of the Commemorative $10 note

One side of the note symbolised European settlement with HMS Supply, the first ship to drop anchor in Sydney Cove, and a medley of persons symbolising all who have contributed to Australia's development since 1788.

Image showing the final design featuring an Aboriginal youth, a Morning Star Pole and other designs on the back of the Commemorative $10 note

The other side of the first polymer note symbolised the original discovery and settlement of Australia some 40–60,000 years earlier. It depicts an Aboriginal youth, a Morning Star Pole and other designs including from Aboriginal artworks commissioned by the Bank.