Australia has concluded plans to remove the British monarch from its banknotes, replacing the image of the late Queen Elizabeth II on its $5 note with a design honouring Indigenous culture, the central bank stated on Thursday.
No monarch would be left on Australia’s paper money if King Charles III, her son, was not included on the $5 note.
A new design that ‘honours the culture and history of the First Australians’ will be the subject of consultation with Indigenous people, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
When Queen Elizabeth passed away on September 8 of last year, Australia had a national day of mourning, but some Indigenous organisations also demonstrated against the damaging effects of colonial Britain and demanded the removal of the monarchy.
Australia is a democracy with a constitutional monarchy under the leadership of King Charles III. In 1999, a referendum that called for the establishment of a republic was narrowly lost.
The central bank said its decision was supported by the centre-left Labor government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who favours an eventual move to an Australian republic.
The new banknote would take “a number of years” to be designed and printed, it said, with the existing $5 note remaining legal tender even after the new design is in people’s hands.
The RBA’s move was hailed by the nation’s republican movement, which noted that Indigenous people predated British settlement by 65,000 years.
‘Australia believes in meritocracy so the idea that someone should be on our currency by birthright is irreconcilable, as is the notion that they should be our head of state by birthright,” said Australian Republic Movement chair Craig Foster.
‘To think that an unelected king should be on our currency in place of First Nations leaders and elders and eminent Australians is no longer justifiable at a time of truth-telling, reconciliation, and ultimately formal, cultural and intellectual independence.’
The Australian Monarchist League said the decision was ‘virtually neo-communism in action’.
‘Before a referendum is held on whether the people want to retain the King as sovereign or opt for a President, this government has arbitrarily moved to discard the King’s head from Australia’s five dollar note,’ it said in a statement.
‘It is certainly not Australian democracy.’
A British monarch has featured on Australian banknotes since 1923 and was on all paper bills until 1953, the year of Elizabeth II’s coronation.
The queen’s face adorned the 1-pound banknote and then the new $1 note from 1966.
That first $1 banknote also included imagery of Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings based on a bark painting by Indigenous artist David Malangi Daymirringu.