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The $50 banknote features portraits of two social and political pioneers, David Unaipon and Edith Cowan.

David Unaipon (Ngarrindjeri) was an activist, inventor, musician, preacher and Australia's first published Aboriginal author. He was especially interested in recording Aboriginal myths and legends and travelled through southern Australia collecting the stories in 1924 and 1925.

In the preface to his volume titled Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, Unaipon records, ‘As a full-blooded member of my race I think I may claim to be the first – but I hope, not the last – to produce an enduring record of our customs, beliefs and imaginings.’ 1 The excerpt is reproduced in microprint on the banknote.

The culture of the Ngarrindjeri nation is also recognised in the banknote's design elements, including shields from the 1850s. They are joined by a representation of the practices of miwi and navel cord exchange; Unaipon's reference to the custom appears in the banknote's microprint:

‘As a mother and child is linked to each other before birth, so the nhung e umpie must be so linked as mother and child. The navel cord is a physical reality, so nhung e umpie should be so, true love, true fellowship, true pity.’ 2

David Unaipon, manuscript of Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, 1924–1925.

State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy Ms Judy Kropinyieri.

Design elements from the banknote showing the art work and examples of Ngarrindjeri shields.

Muriel Van Der Byl, painting portraying the practices of miwi and navel cord exchange.

Edith Cowan became the first female member of an Australian parliament when she was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Western Australian in 1921. Excerpts of her maiden speech to the Western Australian Parliament are reproduced in the banknote's microprint:

‘I stand here today in the unique position of being the first woman in an Australian Parliament ... It is a great responsibility to be the only woman here, and I want to emphasise the necessity which exists for other women being here ... If men and women can work for the State side by side and represent all the different sections of the community ... I cannot doubt that we should do very much better work in the community than was ever done before.’ 3

The banknote includes a picture of the gumnut brooch that Cowan had made for members of her election committee, symbolising that entry into parliament was a ‘tough nut to crack’ for women. The banknote also contains a reference to the Women's Legal Status Act of 1923, Edith Cowan's second successful private member's bill, that opened the legal profession to women.

The banknote features the Acacia humifusa and the Black Swan (Cygnus atratus), David Unaipon's ngaitji, or totem, and the bird of Edith Cowan's home state of Western Australia.

Photograph of the silver brooch given by Edith Cowan to members of her election committee, symbolising that entry into parliament was a ‘tough nut to crack’ for women.

State Library of Western Australia.

King Edward Memorial Hospital opened in 1916 after fundraising and lobbying by Edith Cowan, who sought to improve medical services for women. An image of the hospital appears on the banknote.

Photograph of King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, circa 1916.

State Library of Western Australia.


1. David Unaipon, Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, A1929, unpaginated.

2. Ibid.

3. HCJ Phillips (ed), The Voice of Edith Cowan, Australia's First Woman Parliamentarian, 1921–1924, Edith Cowan University, Perth, 1996, pp 31, 34.

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