Reflections of Martin Place

The Reserve Bank of Australia holds a photographic collection of some 15,000 images. They record the establishment of the national institutions of the Commonwealth Bank and the Reserve Bank, and the financial events in which they were involved, as viewed from Martin Place. The images shown here are being exhibited on the windows of the Reserve Bank's Head Office building and were first shown in celebration of the Bank's 50th anniversary.

Setting the Scene

Construction of the headquarters of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia began in Sydney's Martin Place in 1913, and was completed three years later. By this time, Britain had requested that Australia assist in financing the First World War, and the Commonwealth Bank was charged with managing the sale of war bonds to raise funds. The early photographs in the Reserve Bank collection document some of the inventive ways used to promote war bonds, and later the peace bonds, that raised funds for the resettlement of returned servicemen.

The central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank were separated from its commercial activities with the Reserve Bank Act of 1959. On 14 January 1960, the Reserve Bank of Australia opened for business with Dr H.C. Coombs as the first Governor. The Bank's headquarters were also constructed in Martin Place in an architectural style that reflected the spirit of modernism. As Dr Coombs noted on the opening of the building:

‘Here, contemporary design and conceptions express our conviction that a central bank should develop with growing knowledge and a changing institutional structure and adapt its policies and techniques to the changing needs of the community within which it works … ’

Curated by Reserve Bank of Australia Museum, Reserve Bank of Australia (John Murphy and William Goodfellow).
Exhibition and design by Freeman Ryan Design.
Production and installation by Definitive.