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Common Wealth

The Federation of Australia sought to unify the nation in practical and symbolic ways. Similarly, the new banknotes served this dual role with a national currency that conveyed shared values through its imagery. Collectively, the individual scenes of the banknotes created a panorama of the country that reflected its landscape, industry and economy. Depictions of agriculture, engineering and labour invoked the means of creating prosperity, which was reinforced by possession of the banknotes themselves.

Detail of the £5 banknote showing the Commonwealth coat of arms, first issued in March 1924.

Reserve Bank of Australia Archives, NP-003602.

Detail of Commonwealth Bank of Australia's facade, Moore Street (now Martin Place), Sydney, April 1918, showing the Commonwealth coat of arms, flanked symmetrically by cartouches representing the Australian states. Tank Week was a promotion for the sale of loan bonds to raise funds for the First World War.

Reserve Bank of Australia Archives, PN-001623.

The first decades of the twentieth century witnessed the emergence of central banking in Australia with the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, the forerunner of the Reserve Bank. In the 1920s the Bank assumed responsibility for the banknotes' issuance. This role developed during the century with increasing technical mastery and innovation that saw the introduction of decimal currency, the invention of polymer banknotes and the sophistication of the most recent series, the Next Generation of Banknotes.

Australian Panorama

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