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The Theatre

Three-dimensional image of an opened fan from the $100 banknote.

The $100 banknote recognises the international contributions of Australia's renowned soprano, Dame Nellie Melba, and Sir John Monash, an engineer, military commander and civic leader.

Nellie Melba's portrayal of Rosina from Gioachino Rossini's opera, The Barber of Seville, appears on the banknote with an image of an opened fan in the top-to-bottom and small windows. Melba performed in Europe and North America in the late 19th and early 20th century, and sang for Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and George V. Her social circle numbered aristocrats and renowned figures of her time, including Oscar Wilde.

Melba's clothes were designed by the couturier Charles Worth, and dishes were named in her honour, including Auguste Escoffier's celebrated dessert, Peach Melba.

She invented the theatrical name of Melba to honour Melbourne, her hometown. An excerpt from her autobiography, Melodies and Memories, in the banknote's microprint reads,

‘If you wish to understand me at all … you must understand first and foremost, that I am an Australian.’1

In 1902 Melba returned to Australia for the first time since her European success and was given an overwhelming reception. During the years of the First World War, she contributed to the war effort through her performances and charitable work.

Photograph of Nellie Melba as Rosina from Gioachino Rossini's opera, The Barber of Seville, together with the design element from the banknote.

Lilydale & District Historical Society.

Sir John Monash's career as an engineer is acknowledged on the banknote with his portrayal using surveying equipment and an image of the Fyansford Bridge, Geelong, built by Monash & Anderson, his partnership with JT Noble Anderson. The bridge is constructed from reinforced concrete, a technique that Monash promoted in Victoria.

John Monash is also remembered for his dedicated service as a commander in the First World War. He approached warfare as a series of challenges comparable to those of engineering, in which meticulous planning before entering a theatre of war was critical. Monash submitted his publication, The Australian Victories in France in 1918, to the University of Melbourne as a thesis on the methods of engineering applied to modern warfare and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Engineering.

Photograph of John Monash (right) surveying for the Outer Circle railway line, Melbourne, circa 1889.

National Library of Australia.

John Monash was instrumental in the construction of Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, built to commemorate the men and women of Victoria who served. An excerpt of a letter written by Monash while Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne commends the value of service; it is reproduced in the banknote's microprint,

‘Adopt as your fundamental creed that you will equip yourself for life, not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole community.’2

Monash became chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, and under his leadership the Commission extended the power grid across the entire state.

Photograph of the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, circa 1930.

State Library of Victoria.

The $100 banknote features the Golden Wattle (Acacia pyncantha) and the Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae).


1. Nellie Melba, Melodies and Memories, Thomas Nelson, Australia, Melbourne, 1979, 1925, p 9.

2. Cited in Geoffrey Serle, John Monash: A Biography, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2002, 1982, p 476.

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