Reserve Bank of Australia

Timeline: 1901–1920

With Federation and the opening of Parliament, the new nation begins an eventful first two decades. During this time, Australia produces its first currency notes, like this £1,000 note.

Image showing the opening of Parliament Image showing a £1,000 note


The new Constitution gives the Australian Government responsibility for banking and the issue of currency notes.

The Commonwealth of Australia comes into being. The first Federal Election is held. Edmund Barton becomes Australia's first Prime Minister.

Photograph of Australia's first Federal Cabinet


Women vote for Parliament for the first time and three stand for election.


In the first decade after Federation, private bank notes continued to circulate as a paper currency.

Image showing a bank note issued by The Bank of Australasia


The world's first full-length feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, is screened in Melbourne.


The Basic Wage is introduced (at £2/2/-).


A site for the national capital is chosen, later to be called 'Canberra'.

Photograph of the site chosen for the national capital


The Australian Notes Act 1910 is passed vesting authority to issue Australian notes in the Treasury.

As an interim measure the Government overprints private bank notes with the words 'Australian Note'.

Image showing a private bank note with the words 'Australian Note' overprinted on the note

In the first decade or so after Federation, rural and mining activities are a third of the economy. Wool and gold alone account for about 60 per cent of all exports.


The first Federal Census is conducted.


The Commonwealth Bank Act 1911 is proclaimed, establishing the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.


The first Australian currency note (10 shillings) is issued. Other denominations follow. The notes reflect the dependence of the Australian economy on rural and mining industries.

Image showing the front of the first Australian currency note - ten shillings

Canberra is named.


Australia enters World War I. This period sees an upsurge in inflation and falling real incomes but unemployment is low.


The Commonwealth Bank takes over the distribution of currency notes from the private banks and organises the first Australian war loan.

BHP Steel Works open in Newcastle.
Australian troops land at Gallipoli, Turkey.

Photograph of Australian troops landing at Gallipoli, Turkey


The Commonwealth Bank's new Head Office in Sydney is opened.

Photograph taken on 22 August 1916 of the opening of the Commonwealth Bank's Head Office in Martin Place, Sydney


The Transcontinental Railway is completed enabling trains to link the eastern and western states.


The Australian population reaches 5 million.

World War I ends.


The first flight takes place between England and Australia.


The authority to issue currency notes is transferred from Treasury to the Australian Notes Board.

Photograph of the first meeting of the Notes Board , 17 December 1920

The Commonwealth Institute of Science and Technology (later CSIRO) is established.
Qantas Airways begins operations.

Photograph of an early Qantas Airways plane