Skip to content


The Compass

Three-dimensional image of a compass from the $20 banknote.

The $20 banknote presents entrepreneurs of different eras, with the shipping enterprises of colonial businesswoman, Mary Reibey, contrasting with the use of aviation by the Reverend John Flynn in founding the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The image of the compass in the banknote's top-to-bottom and small windows unites the two identities.

Mary Reibey was transported to New South Wales in 1792 as a convict, sentenced for the theft of a horse. After completing her term, Reibey demonstrated entrepreneurial ability in expanding the business interests that she had inherited from her husband, Thomas. Her involvement in the shipping trade is represented by a schooner in Sydney Cove, together with the names of select vessels that appear in microprint. The image of the schooner is accompanied by one of a traditional Eora nowie (canoe), used skilfully by Aboriginal women to fish.

Mary Reibey contributed to the development of colonial society through her support of educational and charitable causes, and as a founding member of the Bank of New South Wales. Established in 1817, the Bank began its operations in a building leased from Mary Reibey in Sydney's Macquarie Place. The building is depicted in the banknote's top-to-bottom window.

Jacob William Jones, View in Sydney Cove, N.S.W., pencil with white on tinted ground, 1845. Jones' sketch was one of the sources for the banknote's scene relating to Mary Reibey.

State Library of New South Wales.

The Presbyterian minister, the Reverend John Flynn, devoted his life to improving the welfare of Australians in the outback. In 1912 he contributed to the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission and, in 1928, the Aerial Medical Service. The organisation was renamed the Flying Doctor Service of Australia in 1942 and the term ‘Royal’ was added in 1955. Flynn's history is expressed on the banknote through the image of a De Havilland Dragon aircraft used by the Aerial Medical Service in its early years and a pedal-powered radio transceiver, developed by Alfred Traeger to improve communications in remote areas. The following excerpt from John Flynn's The Bushman's Companion, A Handful of Hints for Outbackers is reproduced in microprint on the banknote:

‘After all, it is not necessary to have met face to face to feel a sense of comradeship, we have a mutual love of the bush, and along with that, perhaps, a certain dread of it. If we have not shared discomforts and joys shoulder to shoulder, we have shared some of them, nevertheless, though widely separated. I trust that we will share them further occasionally in the future.’ 1

The banknote features the Box-leaf Wattle (Acacia buxifolia) and a native Australian bird, the Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae).

Photograph of the Flying Doctor's Service De Havilland aircraft leaving a remote Broken Hill homestead, 1948.

National Archives of Australia.

Demonstration of the pedal-powered radio transceiver and morse typewriter designed by Alfred Traeger, 1926.

State Library of South Australia.


1. John Flynn, The Bushman's Companion, A Handful of Hints for Outbackers, The Australian Inland Mission, Presbyterian Church Printers, Melbourne, 1916, p 5.

Explore the series of Pocket Guides