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A New Vision of Banknote Security

As advances in reprographic technology continue to become publicly available, the potential for counterfeiting increases, including the sophisticated counterfeiting of polymer banknotes. In order to anticipate this eventuality, the Reserve Bank foresaw the need to incorporate advanced security features into the nation's banknotes. The use of the polymer substrate for the banknotes' printing had been successfully introduced with the previous New Note Series, and this medium is well suited to the integration of new security features and design elements.

Several years of testing preceded the production of the new series, known as the Next Generation of Banknotes. The program was established in 2007 and included extensive consultation 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 Next Generation of Banknotes series contains pioneering features but retains key aspects of the previous banknotes – the people portrayed, colour palette, sizes and denominations – to ease recognition and to minimise the disruption to businesses. Two innovative security features are integrated with the banknotes: foil elements applied to a clear top-to-bottom window and an optically variable ink that produces a rolling colour effect. The banknotes also include a tactile feature to help the vision-impaired community distinguish between different denominations of banknotes.

The concept design for the series was prepared by emerystudio, whose Creative Director Garry Emery had designed the $20 banknote of the New Note Series and the Centenary of Federation $5 banknote of 2001. Consultation on the design was sought through an advisory panel, formed in 2011. The Design Advisory Panel conferred on the banknotes' narratives and their contextual design elements. It consisted of historians Professor Grace Karskens and Professor Angela Woollacott; industrial designer Professor John Redmond; former Head of the Reserve Bank's Note Issue Department, John Taylor. It also included Wayne Tunnicliffe, Head Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Tony Ellwood, resuming a position that one of his predecessors, Bernard Hall, had held for the first series of Australian banknotes (1913–1914).

Security Features of the Next Generation of Banknotes

Polymer substrate:

Printed on polymer, the banknotes have distinctive texture and return to shape after creasing.

Top-to-bottom clear window:

The window is integrated with the banknote, rather than being an addition. It contains a number of dynamic security features, comprising:

  1. Three-dimensional image
  2. Flying bird
  3. Colourful bird and
  4. Reversing number.
Three-dimensional image:

The image with a colourful border appears when the banknote is tilted, and it seems to be either raised or recessed. The images for this feature comprise: the Federation star ($5); a pen nib ($10); a compass ($20); a book ($50); and a fan ($100).

Flying bird:

Each denomination of the series includes an interpretation of an Australian bird. It appears to move its wings and change colour in the top-to-bottom window.

Colourful bird:

In another representation of the bird, its colours change when the banknote is tilted.

Reversing number:

The number of the banknote's denomination changes direction within an image of a building. The number alternately appears forwards, disappears, then reappears backwards.

The images of the building comprise: the Federation Pavilion, Sydney, New South Wales ($5); a homestead with windmill ($10); a Sydney building owned by Mary Reibey, once leased to the Bank of New South Wales ($20); the church in Raukkan, South Australia, where David Unaipon preached ($50); and Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, Victoria, ($100).

Rolling colour effect

The effect appears in a prominent patch near the top corner on one side of the banknote, and within a bird shape on the banknote's other side.

Image in small window

Integrated with the banknote is a small window. It includes an image that is embossed and has a light and dark effect. The images for this feature comprise: the Federation star ($5); a pen nib ($10); a compass ($20); a book ($50) and a fan ($100).

Intaglio printing

The technique produces distinctive texture that feels raised within the printing of certain areas such as the portraits and numerals.

Background print

Multi-coloured and multi-directional patterns of fine lines appear on each side of the banknote. Their resolution is sharp and free of irregularities such as less clearly defined patterns, thicker or thinner lines, or colour differences.


Tiny, clearly defined text can be found in multiple locations on the banknotes. A quotation from the Australian Constitution appears in microprint on the $5 banknotes, and verses from the poems of Banjo Paterson and Dame Mary Gilmore are reproduced on the $10 banknote. The sources of the microprint on the $20 banknote are the names of vessels related to Mary Reibey's shipping enterprise, and the Reverend John Flynn's The Bushman's Companion. David Unaipon's Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines and Edith Cowan's maiden speech to parliament are the sources for microprint of the $50 banknote, while excerpts from Dame Nellie Melba's memoirs and a letter by Sir John Monash are included on the $100 banknote.

Fluorescent ink

A bird, the banknote's serial number and the year of printing fluoresce under ultraviolet light.

Tactile feature

As well as these security features, the series includes a design feature that assists the vision-impaired community to distinguish between different denominations of banknotes. The tactile feature takes the form of a series of raised bumps on each of the long edges of the banknote; the $5 banknote has a single raised bump and the number increases by one with each denomination.

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