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Public Participation

As a first step towards creating unique Australian banknotes, designs were invited from the public by the Commonwealth Treasury in November 1910 with prizes of £50 being offered. The guidelines specified that the designs should be simple enough that a watermark could be seen and three colours only were to be used for either side of the banknote.1 Preference would be given to designs that included images of the country's scenery and the Commonwealth coat of arms, which was first authorised by King Edward VII in 1908.

While the entries received from the public were judged generally to be unsuitable, a design for the £5 banknote showing waterfalls in Victoria and New South Wales was incorporated later into the design of the £100 banknote.

An Advisory Board was established to assist the Commonwealth Treasury in the selection of the banknotes' imagery. Its members included Bernard Hall, a prominent artist and Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, and the art decorators, Paterson Brothers, who are remembered for their interior design of Villa Alba, Melbourne, now a house museum.

By late 1911 the Government had approved the banknotes designs. In May of the following year, Thomas Harrison, the manager of a London printing company, was appointed to the position of Australian Note Printer, and printing works were established at the King's (later Queen's) Warehouse, Flinders Street Extension, Melbourne. The British firm, Bradley Wilkinson and Company, developed the designs and engravings for the banknotes.

On 1 May 1913 a ceremony was held to launch the first Australian banknote – the ten shilling denomination. At the King's Warehouse, Melbourne, the Honourable Judith Denman, the daughter of the Governor-General, Lord Denman, numbered the inaugural banknote, which was presented to her as a memento. The Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher is seen to the right of Judith Denman, and the Australian Note Printer, Thomas Harrison, is beside him.

Reserve Bank of Australia Archives, PN-010329


1. Ultimately, a watermark was not incorporated into the design of the first banknotes.

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