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Our timeline begins with Federation and the opening of Parliament, with Australia producing its first national banknotes, initially by private banks. It then follows key milestones in social and economic history and the corresponding banknote series.

Opening of the First Parliament of

The Commonwealth of Australia comes into being. The first Federal Election is held. Edmund Barton becomes Australia's first Prime Minister.

Photograph of Australia's first Federal Cabinet

The new Constitution gives the Australian Government responsibility for banking and the issue of banknotes.


Women vote for Parliament for the first time and three stand for election.

Image showing a bank note issued by The Bank of Australasia

In the first decade after Federation, private banknotes continued to circulate as a paper currency.


The world's first full-length feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, is screened in Melbourne.


The Basic Wage is introduced (at £2/2/-).


A site for the national capital is chosen, later to be called 'Canberra'.


In the first decade or so after Federation, rural and mining activities are a third of the economy. Wool and gold alone account for about 60 per cent of all exports.

£10 note issued by The City Bank of Sydney

The Australian Notes Act 1910 is passed vesting authority to issue Australian banknotes in the Treasury. As an interim measure the Government overprints private banknotes with the words 'Australian Note'.


The first Federal Census is conducted.


The Commonwealth Bank Act 1911 is proclaimed, establishing the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.


Canberra is named.

Image showing the front of the first Australian currency note - ten shillings

The first Australian banknote (10 shillings) is issued. Other denominations follow. The notes reflect the dependence of the Australian economy on rural and mining industries.


Australia enters World War I. This period sees an upsurge in inflation and falling real incomes but unemployment is low.

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Photograph of Australian troops landing at Gallipoli, Turkey

The Commonwealth Bank takes over the distribution of banknotes from the private banks and organises the first Australian war loan.

BHP Steel Works open in Newcastle. Australian troops land at Gallipoli, Turkey.

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The Commonwealth Bank's new Head Office in Sydney is opened.

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The Transcontinental Railway is completed enabling trains to link the eastern and western states.


The Australian population reaches 5 million.

World War I ends.


The first flight takes place between England and Australia.

First Australian Notes Board Meeting

The authority to issue banknotes is transferred from Treasury to the Australian Notes Board.

The Commonwealth Institute of Science and Technology (later CSIRO) is established.

Photograph of an early Qantas Airways plane

Qantas Airways begins operations.

Visit of the Prince of Wales

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Edith Cowan is the first woman elected to any australian parliament (legislative assembly of western australia).

Learn more about Currency Notes of the 1920s

The economy grows strongly in the 1920s and exports of rural commodities boom. Mineral deposits are discovered at Mt Isa, Queensland.

Learn more about Currency Notes of the 1920s

The 'Harrison series' of currency notes is issued (named after Thomas S Harrison, the Australian Note Printer).


The Commonwealth Bank is given control of the note issue. Note printing operations are moved to a factory in Fitzroy, Melbourne.


Parliament House, Canberra, is opened.

Photograph of Charles Kingsford Smith standing with co-pilot Charles Ulm, navigator Harry Lyon and radio operator James Warner

Charles Kingsford Smith makes the first flight across the Pacific.


The Wall Street (share market) crash occurs.
The Great Depression begins.


A special Premiers' Conference is held to discuss policies to deal with the depression.
A rail link between Port Augusta (SA) and Alice Springs (NT) is completed.


The Commonwealth Bank Act 1932 abolishes the convertibility of currency notes into gold and specifies them as legal tender.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) is established.

Photograph taken during the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge (which was started in 1925) is opened.

Photography of Man seeking work

Unemployment remains high through the 1930s, which is also a period of deflation or generally falling prices.

Photograph taken during the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The 'Ash series' of notes is issued, named after John Ash, the note printer. Manufacturing is represented on our notes (10 shilling) for the first time.


A Royal Commission into Australia's monetary and banking systems is established.


The report of the Royal Commission recommends establishment of a central bank with strong powers over the banking system.


Australian eucalypts are used to make paper at Burnie, Tasmania.

Photograph of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), King George V and the Duke of York (later George VI)

World War II begins.

A new 'Ash' series of notes is issued. Changes in our currency notes during the 1930s result mainly from changes in the Monarchy, from George V to Edward VIII to George VI.


A blast furnace is opened close to new shipbuilding yards at Whyalla, South Australia.


New legislation gives the Commonwealth Bank an extensive charter and central banking powers as well as its responsibilities for the note issue.

Photograph of women dancing in the street in celebration of the end of World War II

World War II ends in Europe (May) and the Pacific (August).


Australia joins the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Photograph of Prime Minister Ben Chifley beside the 48-215 (FX) Holden taken at the launch of the first Holden in 1948.

Australia's manufacturing sector reaches nearly 30 per cent of GDP and our first mass-produced car is released by General Motors - Holden.

The economy grows strongly in the 1920s and exports of rural commodities boom. Mineral deposits are discovered at Mt Isa, Queensland.


The Privy Council upholds a High Court decision that nationalisation of banks is unconstitutional.


The Korean War begins, lasting until 1953.


The Commonwealth Bank Act of 1951 re-establishes the Commonwealth Bank Board with 10 members.

The ANZUS Treaty is signed with the United States.


The 1953/54 series of currency notes is issued. It features portraits of key people in Australian history rather than the Monarchy or the economy.

Image showing the back of a £10 note issued in 1953/54. Image showing the front of a £5 note issued in 1953/54.
Photograph of Australian Ron Clarke lighting the Cauldron at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Television begins in Australia.
Melbourne hosts the Olympic Games.


Australia's population reaches 10 million.


The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is established as a stand-alone central bank, with responsibility for the note issue.


Large deposits of iron ore are opened up in the Pilbara, Western Australia, sparking a mineral boom.


The Government announces that decimal currency will be introduced.


The RBA moves into its new Head Office building at 65 Martin Place, Sydney.
Australia enters the Vietnam war.

This tile image features details from David Daymirringu’s bark painting which was used on the $1 decimal banknote. The note was designed by Gordon Andrews.

Australia converts from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency.

Image showing the back of a $10 note featuring Henry Lawson.

The first series of decimal notes is issued. The new notes capture the emerging diversity of Australian society including its literature.

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Photograph of a re-enactment of Captain Cook's landing at Botany Bay.

Australia celebrates 200 years since Captain Cook's landing at Botany Bay.


Australia breaks the fixed link of the $A to the $US.


Women receive equal pay.

Photograph taken at the opening of the Sydney Opera House on 20 October 1973

Patrick White becomes the first Australian to win the Nobel Prize for literature.
The Sydney Opera House is opened.

Image showing the front of a $50 note featuring the portrait of Sir Howard Florey

A $50 decimal currency banknote is issued.


The Bankcard (credit card) system is introduced.


The $A is devalued by 17.6 per cent and Australia moves to arrangements for adjustment of the exchange rate against a trade-weighted currency basket.


Australia wins the Centenary cricket test in Melbourne by the same margin (45 runs) as in 1877.


Australia's economic performance deteriorates through the 1970s; inflation and unemployment both rise (stagflation) and economic growth is modest.


Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are introduced.


Note printing operations are moved from Fitzroy to Craigieburn, Victoria.
Australia's population reaches 15 million.


The $A is floated and exchange controls abolished.


The decision to replace the $1 note by a $1 coin is announced with the new coin issued in 1984.
A $100 decimal currency banknote is issued.

The 1980s sees extensive deregulation of the Australian financial system.

The first of 16 foreign banks granted a banking licence by the Government opens in Australia


Share prices suffer a record fall in October in the worst crash since 1929.

Arial photograph of the new Parliament House, Canberra opened on 9 May 1988

The new Parliament House, Canberra, is opened.

The $2 note is replaced by a $2 coin.
Australia celebrates the Bicentenary of the First Settlement.

Image showing the front of the Commemorative $10 polymer note

The first banknote using new polymer technology developed by the RBA and the CSIRO is issued. It commemorates the Bicentenary of the First Settlement.


Note Printing Branch becomes a self-sufficient business enterprise called Note Printing Australia (NPA).

Image showing a commemorative $50 polymer note from Singapore

NPA secures its first export order, for a commemorative polymer note, from Singapore.


Inflation in Australia falls sharply to levels not seen since the 1960s.


The internet gives rise to the World Wide Web.

Image showing the back of the $5 polymer note featuring the old and new Parliament House

The first of a complete series of 'Polymer' banknotes - a $5 note - is issued.

Image showing the front of the $10 polymer note featuring the portrait of Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson

A $10 polymer banknote is issued.

Image showing the front of the $20 polymer note featuring the portrait of Mary Reibey

A $20 polymer note is issued.


A recoloured $5 polymer note is issued.

Image showing the back of the $100 polymer note featuring the portrait of Sir John Monash

A $50 polymer note is issued.


Australia's financial markets develop rapidly through the 1990s and the economy becomes more integrated with the world economy.

Image showing a polymer note from New Zealand

A $100 polymer note is issued, completing the first series of polymer notes.


The 'Asian Crisis' starts in Thailand, Korea and Indonesia before spreading to Russia and Latin America. Despite contraction in Australia's export markets, our economy proves resilient.

Image showing the back of the $10 polymer note

New Zealand converts to polymer currency notes, printed by NPA.

NPA's export orders extend to 13 countries.

As part of its contingency planning for the 'Y2K' problem, the RBA stockpiles additional supplies of currency notes.

Australia, like other countries, prepares for the expected problems associated with computers' capacity to recognise the dates in the new century, the so-called Y2K problem. In the event, problems prove negligible.

Photograph of Australian Cathy Freeman lighting the Cauldron at the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Sydney hosts the Olympic Games.

Image showing the front of the $5 polymer note featuring the portrait of Sir Henry Parkes

A special Federation $5 polymer note is issued from 1 January 2001.