One of the defining characteristics of Australia's geography is the vast distances that separate its population centres. Therefore, Australia has a unique reliance upon aviation. Australia embraced the benefits of aviation earlier than many other nations, and it has produced many pioneering aviators and accomplished innovators in aeronautical technology. The importance of aviation to Australia has been reflected in several previous banknotes. The Museum has prepared a display on the theme of pioneers and innovators in aviation. The display presents early design proposals for Australian banknotes that feature the boomerang – one of the earliest aerofoils made by humans.
The £5 banknote in the 1953/54 series showed a boomerang among other objects associated with Aboriginal culture and an arrangement of subjects representing agricultural enterprise in Australia. This was the first time Indigenous culture had been introduced into the design of Australia's banknotes.
As Australia prepared to convert its currency to the decimal system in the early 1960s, designs were developed for a new series of banknotes. A number of early designs for the ‘Royal’ (as the currency was originally called) included the boomerang as a central design element.
As the design process advanced, Australian accomplishments in aviation emerged as the central theme of Australia's first series of $20 banknotes. Preliminary designs from 1964 (shown below), portray Sir Charles Kingsford Smith wearing his flying cap and goggles on the front side. On the reverse side, a nurse of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is at work in front of an ambulance. The first RFDS aircraft Victory stands on an outback runway in the background.
Although these proposals by George Hamori were not developed into the final form of the 1966 series $20 banknote, the final design did celebrate the theme of Australian aviation by featuring Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Lawrence Hargrave. The story of the Royal Flying Doctor Service was to be incorporated into the 1994 series $20 banknote.
To learn more about the personalities behind the portraits on Australia's banknotes, see Notable Australians.