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Alternative Decimal Banknote Designs

In July 1963 the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr H C Coombs, contacted seven renowned designers to ask them to take part in a competition to design the new decimal currency banknotes. Four designers elected to take part in this competition: Gordon Andrews, Richard Beck, Max Forbes and George Hamori. Australian artist Russell Drysdale, along with well-known designers Hal Missingham, Douglas Annand and Alistair Morrison, acted as an advisory committee throughout the creative process. The designers were given six months to complete the designs for the four new banknotes – $1, $2, $10 and $20 – as well as to provide preliminary ideas for a fifth and sixth banknote – $5 and $50.

Few instructions were given regarding the themes and portraits for the banknotes other than the use of the Queen for the front of the $1 banknote. However, it was suggested that the designs should capture the diverse and unique aspects of Australia, and a list of suggested historical characters and themes was distributed to the designers.

Andrews, Beck, Forbes and Hamori all submitted their banknote designs in March 1964. The designs were then judged by the other members of the committee who gave their recommendation to then Governor of the Bank, Dr Coombs, and Treasurer, Harold Holt. Whilst all the designs were thought to be highly commendable, the selection of Gordon Andrews’ designs was unanimous.

Max Forbes

Forbes’ $1 banknote depicts the Queen on the front against a background of Australian flora. The back shows native Australian flora and birdlife. It features Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa), the Banksia (Proteaceia), the Waratah (Telopea) and the Wattle (Acacia) on which are perched a cockatoo and a kookaburra.

Image showing front of $1 banknote designed by Forbes
Image showing back of $1 banknote designed by Forbes
Flip Banknote

The $2 banknote portrays James Cook’s (1728-1779) first voyage to Australia with a portrait of Cook on the front along with a ship in sail and a landing party in British naval uniform. The back of the banknote shows the HMS Endeavour and a selection of Australian flora and fauna in the foreground. The animals depicted include a koala, a frilled-neck lizard, a kangaroo, a dingo, an emu, and a quokka.

Image showing front of $2 banknote designed by Forbes
Image showing back of $2 banknote designed by Forbes
Flip Banknote

A theme of flight and aviation is represented on the $10 banknote. The front includes a portrait of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935) and a plane in flight surrounded by designs representing air currents. On the reverse are a selection of Australian land and sea birds including a Black Swan with a cygnet, a White-faced Heron, a Noisy Friarbird, a Wedge-tailed Eagle, a kookaburra and a magpie.

Image showing front of $10 banknote designed by Forbes
Image showing back of $10 banknote designed by Forbes
Flip Banknote

The $20 banknote has a portrait of Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931) on the front and a lyre bird in the background. The back depicts scenes from the goldrush era.

Image showing front of $20 banknote designed by Forbes
Image showing back of $20 banknote designed by Forbes
Flip Banknote

George Hamori

The front of Hamori’s $1 banknote bears a portrait of the Queen along with a series of geometric line patterns. The back of the banknote features an anonymous first fleet sailor at the helm with a seagull perched nearby and another ship from the fleet in the background.

Image showing front of $1 banknote designed by Hamori
Image showing back of $1 banknote designed by Hamori
Flip Banknote

The $2 banknote has an agricultural theme with a portrait of notable agronomist William Farrer (1845-1906) on the front and an image of a man sheering a sheep with a farm in the background on the reverse.

Image showing front of $2 banknote designed by Hamori
Image showing back of $2 banknote designed by Hamori
Flip Banknote

The $10 banknote focuses on Australia’s engineering achievements. Sir John Monash, a highly successful civil engineer in civilian life, is featured on the front of the banknote. The back shows an engineer tightening a bolt against the background of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.

Image showing front of $10 banknote designed by Hamori
Image showing back of $10 banknote designed by Hamori
Flip Banknote

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s portrait appears on the front of the $20 banknote which represents Australia’s achievements in aviation. On the back a nurse of the Flying Doctor Service is at work in front of an ambulance and the first Flying Doctor aircraft “Victory” stands on an outback runway.

Image showing front of $20 banknote designed by Hamori
Image showing back of $20 banknote designed by Hamori
Flip Banknote

Richard Beck

The back of Beck’s $1 banknote depicts a miscellany of Australian historical figures. They allude to the country’s colonial period of naval governors and the New South Wales Corps (far left); its drovers, wheat farmers and shearers; and its artists such as the soprano, Dame Nellie Melba, who holds a volume of music and is flanked by Banjo Paterson (to her left) and Henry Lawson.

Image showing front of $1 banknote designed by Beck
Image showing back of $1 banknote designed by Beck
Flip Banknote

An engineering theme is represented on the $10 banknote. Sir John Monash (1865-1931) is shown in civilian dress with an electricity pylon to represent his work as Chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria in the 1920s. On the back of the banknote is an array of figures illustrating the history of mining and engineering in Australia.

Image showing front of $10 banknote designed by Beck
Image showing back of $10 banknote designed by Beck
Flip Banknote

The $20 banknote focuses on Australia’s unique flora. The portrait of renowned naturalist Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) is featured on the front of the banknote along with a stylised drawing of one of the ships he sailed on. On the back of the banknote are examples of Australian flora: the Moreton Bay Chestnut (Castanospermum Australe), the Woody Pear (Xylomelum pyriforme), the Banksia (Proteaceia), and the Native Apricot (Pittosporum phylliraeoides).

Image showing front of $20 banknote designed by Beck
Image showing back of $20 banknote designed by Beck
Flip Banknote
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