Sorry, Charles: Australia replacing British monarchy on banknote with Indigenous design

This file photo shows the Australian $5 banknote. MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images

Australia is removing the British monarchy from its banknotes.

Australia’s central bank announced Thursday that it will not be replacing the image of the late Queen Elizabeth II on its $5 bill with an image of King Charles III.

The new bill will instead feature an Indigenous design that honours the island’s original inhabitants.

“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,” Australia’s bank wrote in a press release. “This new design will replace the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

The reverse side of the bill will continue to feature the Australian Parliament, the bank said.

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King Charles is still expected to appear on Australia’s coin — as soon as this year — but the $5 bill was Australia’s only remaining banknote to feature an image of the British monarch.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the change was an opportunity to strike a good balance.

“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,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

The bank said the decision followed consultation with the centre-left Labor Party government, which supported the change. Opponents say the move is politically motivated.

The British monarch remains Australia’s head of state, like Canada, although these days that role is largely symbolic.

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Opposition leader Peter Dutton likened the move to changing the date of the national day, Australia Day.

“I know the silent majority don’t agree with a lot of the woke nonsense that goes on but we’ve got to hear more from those people online,” he told 2GB Radio.

Australia has a long history of featuring Indigenous art on its currency. The Reserve Bank notes that the “first $1 banknote, issued in 1966, included imagery of Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings and designs based on a bark painting by David Malangi Daymirringu.”

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Australia’s current $50 note features David Uniapon, a Ngarrindjeri author and activist.

It will likely be several years before Australians see the newly designed $5 note. The bank plans to consult with Indigenous groups in designing the bill — a lengthy process, it expects.

Until then, the current $5 note will continue to be issued until the new design goes into production. Even after the new bill is introduced, the old design with Queen Elizabeth II’s image will remain legal tender.

This file photo shows the Australian $5 banknote. MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images

As for Canada, there has been no parliamentary movement on the issue of coins and banknotes since the death of Queen Elizabeth II last September. King Charles III is set to be coronated on May 6.

In an email to Global News in December 2022, the Royal Canadian Mint reiterated that the government has “not yet announced how it plans to change the obverse (heads side) of our coins.”

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“In the meantime, we have a team in place, ready to implement this change in a timely manner, once a decision is announced,” said Alex Reeves, senior manager of public affairs for the mint.

The Bank of Canada told Global News that the “current polymer $20 bank note is intended to circulate for years to come,” with the image of Queen Elizabeth II.

“There is no legislative requirement to change the design within a prescribed period when the monarch changes,” said Amélie Ferron-Craig, a media relations consultant for the Bank of Canada.

In December, the U.K. revealed the design of its new banknotes with King Charles III’s portrait. The new bills are expected to enter circulation in 2024.

Design of the new English banknotes, featuring King Charles III. Bank of England

The U.K. also started releasing 50 pence coins with the new monarch’s image in December.

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At one time, Queen Elizabeth II appeared on at least 33 different currencies, more than any other monarch, an achievement noted by Guinness World Records.

— With files from The Associated Press

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