Skip to content



First Nations people have inhabited the continent of Australia for thousands of generations. In addition to hunting and gathering, forms of agriculture and land management were practised in ways that ensured resources were maintained for future benefit. The trade of artefacts, crop seeds and knowledge occurred over song-lines, whose networks spanned the continent. As the term suggests, song-lines were memorised through song and sequences of ceremonies performed along their routes. Trade was based on exchange and did not involve the use of intermediatory currency.

Barter and other forms of currencies were introduced following British colonisation. As an economy of private enterprise began to emerge, the development of banking and standardized currency was promoted. The discovery of gold in 1851 advanced these developments and during the 19th century proposals to establish a national bank to issue banknotes emerged, mainly in response to economic and financial crises. In 1901 the Federation of Australia brought together the country's self-governing colonies into political union with federal structure – the Commonwealth of Australia. The constitution of the new nation gave the Commonwealth Government the power to legislate in regard to its currency, leading to the issuance of national banknotes.

Explore the series of Pocket Guides