Australian $5 Note Redesign Won’t Feature King Charles, as Queen Elizabeth Portrait Removed in Update
Stephanie Borys, ABC, February 1, 2023
King Charles will not feature on Australia’s $5 banknote following a decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia, prompting outrage from the opposition.
The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II first appeared on the $5 polymer note in July 1992 when the Queen celebrated the 40th anniversary of her accession.
Following the Queen’s death, the RBA reviewed the design and on Thursday announced via a statement that the note would change, following consultation with the federal government.
“The Reserve Bank has decided to update the $5 banknote to feature a new design that honours the culture and history of the First Australians,” the statement said.
“This new design will replace the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“The other side of the $5 banknote will continue to feature the Australian Parliament.”
However it is expected to be several years before the new note is in circulation.
The RBA said it would consult with First Australians on the new design.
“The new banknote will take a number of years to be designed and printed,” the statement said.
“In the meantime, the current $5 banknote will continue to be issued.
“It will be able to be used even after the new banknote is issued.”
Dutton says change an ‘attack’ on society
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he did not agree with the decision.
“There is no question about this, that it’s directed by the government,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“I think it is another attack on our systems, our society and institutions.”
Liberal senator Dean Smith, who is a staunch monarchist and constitutional conservative, said he did not understand why the note could not incorporate all elements of Australia’s history.
“A design incorporating both our new King and an appreciation for Australia’s Indigenous heritage and culture would be a better and more unifying approach,” he said in a statement.
“This decision misses a unique opportunity for both the RBA and Anthony Albanese to merge these two important aspects of Australia’s story.”
First King Charles III coins
The first coin bearing a portrait of King Charles is a memorial 50 pence honouring Queen Elizabeth II, which will go into circulation in December in the UK.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers was involved in the decision-making process and said he supported the verdict.
“We were consulted on this decision, it is a decision for the RBA to take but the governor consulted me in reaching this decision,” he said.
“I welcome the decision taken … to ensure that the new $5 note recognises and celebrates the culture and history and heritage of Indigenous Australians.”
He insisted the decision struck the right balance.
“It’s important to remember that the monarch will continue to be on our coins,” he said.
“It is an opportunity to strike a good balance here. The monarch will still be on the coins but the $5 note will say more about our history and our heritage and our country and I see that as a good thing.”
Greens First Nations spokesperson Lidia Thorpe said the redesign was a step towards decolonising Australia.
“This is a massive win for the grassroots, First Nations people who have been fighting to decolonise this country,” Senator Thorpe wrote on Twitter.
Different designs and old controversies
When the $5 note featuring the Queen’s likeness was first released in 1992, there was some criticism about the decision to put her portrait on the note.
The Reserve Bank of Australia museum’s website stated that the criticism was linked to the decision to replace Caroline Chisholm with the Queen.
“The Reserve Bank defended its decision to include the portrait of the Queen, explaining that the monarch’s portrait always appeared on at least one banknote; as Australia remained a constitutional monarchy, it was still appropriate to depict the Queen on Australia’s banknotes,” it said.
The Queen was previously on the $1 paper banknote that was first issued in 1966 and the 1 pound banknote that was first released in 1953.
There have been Indigenous designs on different notes throughout the decades, including the first $1 banknote in 1966.
The current $5 design has an image of Parliament House that includes the forecourt mosaic, which is based on a Central Desert dot-style painting by Michael Nelson Jagamara.
The $50 banknote features David Uniapon, a Ngarrindjeri man from South Australia, who is an author, inventor, activist and musician.