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The Federation Star

Three-dimensional image of the Federation star from the $5 banknote.

The design of the $5 banknote denotes the development of Australia's government and its Westminster parliamentary democracy. The act of Federation brought together the country's six self-governing colonies into political union with federal structure.

On 1 January 1901, an official ceremony marking the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia took place in Centennial Park, Sydney, where a temporary pavilion was constructed. An interpretation of this Federation Pavilion appears in the $5 banknote's top-to-bottom window. The country's unification is symbolised by the seven-pointed Federation star, reflecting the nation's six states with its territories, and the star is represented in the top-to-bottom and the small windows.

In contrast with the modest pavilion where Federation was inaugurated, the banknote's design also includes the imposing facade of Parliament House, Canberra, together with an aerial plan view. Opened in 1988, the building includes a forecourt mosaic based on the 1985 painting, Possum and Wallaby Dreaming, by Michael Nelson Jagamara (Luritja; Warlpiri), symbolising the spiritual connection between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their ancestral land.

The Constitution of Australia was enacted with Federation and an excerpt from the first part of the document is reproduced in microprint on the banknote:

‘The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a federal parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called The Parliament, or The Parliament of the Commonwealth.’ 1

Photograph of the Federation Pavilion, Centennial Park, Sydney, 1 January 1901, the official ceremony marking the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia.

University of Queensland.

The portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reflects the role of the monarch within the system of constitutional monarchy. The Queen first appeared on an Australian banknote in 1953 when she was portrayed on the £1 banknote. A new portrait was commissioned for the $1 banknote, first issued in 1966, and a third portrait was drawn for the $5 banknote of 1992, based on a photograph by John Lawrence from 1984. The same photograph is used as the source for the Queen's portrait on the new $5 banknote; however, more detail is apparent in this portrait owing to advances in printing technology.

In line with the series' practice of including a species of wattle and native bird on each denomination, the banknote features interpretations of the Prickly Moses wattle (Acacia verticillata, subspecies ovoidea) and the Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris), a species of honeyeater.

The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK).

Parliament Archives UK.


1. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK), Part 1 General, National Archives of Australia.

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