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A New Vision for Banknotes

This section of the Museum presents the next generation of Australian banknotes, and provides insight into its production, design and security features. Like their predecessors, the new banknotes are printed on polymer, a type of plastic. They retain key aspects of the previous series—the people portrayed, colour palette, size and denomination—but incorporate new security features and designs.

$5 banknote, first issued in 2016.

Issued from 2016, the banknotes reveal innovations that have been envisaged to enhance the banknotes’ accessibility and protect them from counterfeiting. A clear top-to-bottom ‘window’ represents a distinctive feature of these banknotes; it includes a number of sophisticated security features. This generation of banknotes also introduces a tactile feature that can be used by people who are blind or have low vision to determine the value of their banknotes.

Portrait of a Constitutional Monarch

Since Australian banknotes were first issued in 1913, they have portrayed the reigning monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II first appeared on an Australian banknote in 1953 when she was portrayed on the £1 banknote. A new portrait was commissioned for the $1 banknote, first issued in 1966, and a third portrait was drawn for the $5 banknote issued in 1992, based on a photograph from 1984. The portrait of the Queen on the new banknote, first issued in 2016, has been redrawn from the same photograph. Technological advances mean more detail can be achieved in the design and the portrait on the new banknote more closely resembles the original photograph.

The Queen’s portrait on the banknote denotes Australia’s system of democracy, based on a constitutional monarchy and the Westminster parliamentary structures. There are 16 members of the Commonwealth of Nations that have the Queen as their reigning constitutional monarch; these include the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.

How Are the Banknotes Produced?

Several years of consultation and testing precede the production of the banknotes. Extensive consultation takes place with designers, technical and subject-matter experts, the cash-handling industry, representatives of interest groups such as the vision-impaired community, and the public.

The foundation of the banknote is a clear, laminated polymer film, a type of plastic. Printing plates, special inks and high-technology printing machinery transform this film into a banknote. Major design elements, such as portraits, are printed by a process called intaglio printing, using engraved metal plates. The new series of banknotes introduces two innovative security features: foil elements applied to a clear top-to-bottom window and an optically variable ink that produces a rolling colour effect.

Major design elements, such as portraits, are printed next by a process called intaglio printing, using engraved metal plates. The new banknotes also include a tactile feature – small raised dots or bumps that assist the vision-impaired to identify the value of the banknote’s denomination. At a final stage, two layers of a protective overcoating or varnish are applied.

Security and Design Features

Australian banknotes are printed on polymer, a type of plastic that has a distinctive feeling, and retains its shape after it has been scrunched.

Top-to-bottom window

The banknote features a distinctive clear top-to-bottom window. The window is an integral part of the banknote and contains multiple security features, comprising:

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

3D image

Tilt the banknote to see a three-dimensional Federation Star with a colourful border. It appears raised on one side of the banknote and recessed on the other.

Flying bird

Tilt the banknote to see the Eastern Spinebill move its wings and change colour.

Colourful bird

Tilt the banknote to see the colours change within the Eastern Spinebill. This is primarily in the wings and body.

Reversing ‘5’

Tilt the banknote to see the number ‘5’ change direction within the Federation Pavilion. The number alternately appears forwards, disappears for a moment, then appears backwards.

Hover the top-to-bottom window to see animated versions of the features

Rolling colour effect

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

Tilt the banknote to see a rolling colour effect. On one side of the banknote, it is within a bird shape, and on the other it is within a prominent patch near the top corner.

Image in Small Window

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

Look for a Federation Star in a small clear window. The Star is embossed and has a light and dark effect. The window should be an integral part of the banknote and not an addition.

Tactile Feature

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

The new banknotes also include a tactile feature—raised bumps that assist people with impaired vision to identify the value of their banknote. Please touch the banknote above to feel the raised bumps.

Intaglio print

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

Intaglio is raised dark printing with a distinctive feel. On genuine Australian banknotes, the slightly raised print can be felt by running a finger across the portraits and numerals.

Background print (offset)

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

Multi-coloured and multi-directional fine-line patterns appear on each side of the banknote. This background printing should be very sharp.

Microprint

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

There is microprint, or tiny, clearly defined text, in multiple locations on the banknote, which is visible under a magnifying glass. This includes excerpts from the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) in the branch in the top-to-bottom window and in the steps and wall of the image of Parliament House, Canberra. The value is also microprinted in the background print.

Fluorescent Ink

Animated gif of Reversing '5' design feature

The serial numbers fluoresce under ultra-violet light. An Eastern Spinebill in flight and a wattle branch also becomes visible under ultra-violet light.

The images of the wattle that appear on the banknote are representations of Prickly Moses wattle (Acacia verticillata subsp. ovoidea). The remaining images are the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II; Parliament House, Canberra with its forecourt mosaic based on the painting, Possum and Wallaby Dreaming, 1985 by Michael Nelson Jagamara, and an aerial plan view of Parliament House.

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