Bulletin – September Quarter 2016 New Banknotes: From Concept to Circulation Abstract

A core function of the Reserve Bank is to maintain public confidence in Australia's banknotes as a secure method of payment and store of wealth. To meet this objective, the Reserve Bank has been developing a new banknote series to upgrade the security of Australia's banknotes. The process has involved integrating artistic designs that reflect Australia's cultural identity with a range of complex technical features designed to make the banknotes very difficult to counterfeit. This article outlines the various steps of the process of ‘banknotisation’ for the new banknote series, whereby the design concept is developed into a finished banknote.


We're upgrading Australia's banknotes because over a number of years we've made an assessment that while our counterfeiting rate is low there are signs that it is increasing.

Basically there's three phases to the development of a banknote. You have to go through an evaluation of security features and you have to figure out how to design them into a banknote. Then you go through a period of trials and testing of those banknotes and then you have to produce them.

So what a lot of people don't realise there's so many layers to a banknote. In fact, the new banknote will have 19 distinct layers which means that you design each layer, and then you design the next one, you test that they work together and then you put the next layer on and you test whether that works. By the time you get to the 19th layer it's got to work with the previous 18. So you can imagine that if you get to a point where it doesn't work you've got to actually wind it back and then go through the process again.

There's predominantly two types of testing we have to do. One is to make sure that the banknote is durable. The way that we do that is that we have a banknote evaluation laboratory and they do a range of about 250 different tests of the banknote to establish whether or not this will survive in circulation. And these tests can range from anything from a simple rubbing test where they actually work out how quickly the ink will wear down over time, to other tests where they put the banknotes in, believe it or not, into denim pockets into a washing machine and actually wash them and actually see how they interact with friction, with chemicals and with liquid. So they do all those durability tests to simulate what we think will happen in circulation.

The second big type of tests that we do are with the banknote equipment manufacturers. These are the ATMs, the ticketing machines and the like, and what we want to do is make sure that those machines can actually read the banknote, but also that when they move through the machinery that they don't jam for a particular reason.

So we were very keen to actually represent typically Australian themes on the banknote. So one of the themes is we've got distinctly Australian birds and we've got Australian wattle. Now of course when we go to those we have to make sure that they are Australian, but we also have to make sure that we have represented it in a correct way. So we actually consult quite widely with subject matter experts, so we deal with ornithologists who are looking at birds all the time and they're able to tell us whether we've got the shape of the beak right or the shape of the neck of the bird right.

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