The five-dollar bill is Australia’s smallest-denomination banknote and is worth about $3.55 in US dollars. There are approximately 208 million fivers currently in circulation, sporting the Australian parliament building in Canberra on the reverse and the traditional portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse.
Queen Elizabeth II passed away in September 2022, after a 70-year reign. Though Australia has been formally independent from Great Britain since 1901, it considers the British monarch its symbolic head of state. But the things are about to change Down Under now.
The Reserve Bank of Australia, which is the nation’s central bank and banknote issuing authority, announced that the country’s new $5 note will feature a design honouring “the culture and history of the First Australians” instead of the portrait of new British King Charles III.
Australia’s indigenous groups will be consulted on the appropriate replacement design, a process that may take several years, the bank said. The current design will remain in circulation for the time being and continue to be legal tender even afterward.
“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,” the Treasurer of Australia Jim Chalmers told reporters in Melbourne. Australia’s new 50-pence coin, due later this year, will still feature the portrait of King Charles III.
The opposition Liberal Party has criticized the decision to remove Charles from the banknote and urged Australians to oppose “the woke nonsense that goes on.” Liberal leader Peter Dutton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was behind the idea to remove the monarch’s portrait from Australian banknote, suggesting it the move was part of the ruling Labour’s agenda to turn Australia into a republic.
The Reserve Bank of Australia’s announcement came as the country’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles were in London for meetings with their British counterparts. While the current Australian government remains committed to the AUKUS pact with the UK and the US, Wong reminded her hosts that Australia’s identity is no longer primarily British.
“Today, as a modern, multicultural country, home to people of more than 300 ancestries and the oldest continuing culture on earth, Australia sees itself as being in the Indo-Pacific, and being of the Indo-Pacific,” Wong said in a speech at King’s College. “The story we tell the world about who we are,” Wong argued, “is the starting point of our foreign policies.”