Australian Bank Notes: their stories and other interesting facts

Bank notes in Australia range from $5 to $100, and are identified as world’s first currency to be printed on polymer (plastic). The technology was developed by RBA (Reserved Bank of Australia) and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) with the motive of making bank notes more secure, durable and cost effective.

Some of the benefits that Australian Government observed from these notes are:

  • More Secure: polymer notes can be crammed with security feature making them easy to verify. This makes them become difficult to counterfeit. This prevents counterfeiters to generate fake currency or forgeries.
  • More Durable: polymer notes are more durable than paper notes because they are less prone to wear and tear and last 2.5 times longer. This results in a reduced replacement costs.
  • More Cost Effective: due to reduced replacement costs and easier recycling options, polymer notes are more cost effective than paper notes. Did you know that polymer banknotes are recycled into other useful plastic items, such as plant pots. (Source: The Economist)
  • Some other benefits include, lower environment impact, are completely waterproof, cleaner and resistant to dirt and moisture.

Did know you that each bank note in Australia ($5, $10, $20, $50 and $100) has a story behind it.

$5 Bank Note:

On one side, the $5 note has the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II along with a branch of eucalyptus. On the other side, the Old and New Parliament Houses, which were opened in 1927 and 1988 respectively are featured.

Interesting Fact: $5 polymer banknote was designed and issued in three patterns since 1992. The very first design was considered pale and some people found it very similar to the $10 banknote so a brighter version was issued in 1995.

$10 Bank Note:

On one side of this polymer note, the portrait of Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (a poet and ballad writer) along with the theme of his writing has been featured, while on the other side, Dame Mary Gilmore’s portrait, along with excerpts from her poem (in the microprint) are presented.

Interesting Fact: the $10 polymer note is the only Australian Banknote that has something printed in microprint, other than the value.

$20 Bank Note:

One of the sides of this banknote shows images of Mary Reibey (a pioneer businesswoman with interests in shipping and property) along with schooner Mercury and a building in George Street, Sydney, both of which Reibey owned, while the other side, it shows Reverend John Flynn (innovator of world’s first aerial medical service, now known as the Royal Flying Doctor Service) along with DeHavilland 50 aircraft Victory.

Interesting Fact: Mary Reibey assumed the identity of James Burrow, when she was sentenced to 7 years of transportation for stealing.

Reverend John Flynn had 5 camels, out of which one is shown on the note. These camels were used by Patrol Padres to undertake the mission work throughout central Australia.

$50 Bank Note:

On one side of the note, David Unaipon is shown, an Ngarrindjeri man known for his contributions to science, literature and improvements in conditions for Aboriginal people. On the other side, Edith Cowan is featured, who is a well known first female Member of Parliament and a social worker.

Interesting Fact: Edith Cowan was elected to parliament in 1921 for which she nearly defeated T.P. Draper, the one who was responsible for introducing the changes to legislation that allowed her to run for the seat.

$100 Bank Note:

One of the sides show Dame Nellie Melba who rose to prominence as a soprano. She found great success in London, Paris, Milan, New York and other major cities. In 1902, she came home as a part of an Australian and New Zealand tour that has been depicted on the note. On the other side, Sir John Monash, who was one of Australia’s greatest military commanders has been featured. He is well known to have served in Gallipoli and on the Western Front. His greatest victory was at Hamel.

Interesting Fact: Sir John Monash is also well known to have restructured procedures for the deportation of Australian soldiers and presided over the Australian Imperial Forces Education Scheme, which assisted their transition to civilian life.

Source: RBA