Aussie banknotes are the least sexist

In September the Reserve Bank will put into circulation Australia’s first tactile banknote to assist the vision-impaired community. 

While credit cards and NFC payment technology are user-friendly for just about any Australian adult, handling cash can be a challenge for people who are vision-impaired.  The will be progressively changing though, with the Reserve Bank putting the first tactile note – the new $5 note – into circulation on 1st September.

  • The tactile feature on the $5 banknote is a raised bump on each of the long edges of the banknote. The other denominations will have different numbers of bumps.
  • The tactile feature is not Braille.
  • The tactile feature is not a security feature and should not be used to check the authenticity of a banknote.

“Innovative new security features have been incorporated to help keep Australia’s banknotes secure from counterfeiting into the future,” said RBA Governor, Glenn Stevens.

“Each banknote in the new series will depict a different species of Australian wattle and a native bird within a number of the elements. On the $5 banknote, these are the Prickly Moses wattle and the Eastern Spinebill.”


Good news: Our money is also the least sexist

An article published in 2015 on the BBC website examined the level of representation given to women on banknotes in various countries – and found that Australia has the best track record, featuring a woman on every single one of our five bank notes.

Unfortunately, most other countries are not so good when it comes to representation on banknotes; American, Chinese, and Indian banknotes are dominated by males, featuring no women at all.  Canada had a woman (Therese Casgrain) on one of their notes, but she was replaced in 2011 by an icebreaker ship.

It’s due to this inequality that the group Women On 20s is trying to get the face of a historical American women on the American twenty dollar bill  and they have had success! The US Treasury Department has announced the decision to accelerate production of a new $20 bill, revealing its design in time for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020 and working with the Federal Reserve Board to fast-track its issuance into circulation. The candidate chosen is freed slave and freedom fighter  Harriet Tubman.

In Canada there’s a similar push to get a woman on a banknote, which is in part a reaction to the aforementioned removal of Theresa Casgrain from one of Canada’s banknote. Last International Women’s Day, a public consultation was launched to select an iconic Canadian woman to be featured on the first bank note of their next series and a shortlist of 12 candidates has been selected.


Australian banknotes and the women on them

Queen Elizabeth 2The five dollar note – Queen Elizabeth II

The current Head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of Australia, Elizabeth II has been a relatively popular ruler for her more than 60 years of reigning. However, while she has accomplished much in her life, and is an extremely admirable figure, it’s worth noting that her presence on an Australian note is due to her status as queen regnant rather than as recognition of merit. She’s a de-facto presence, so to say.

Ten dollar noteThe ten dollar note – Dame Mary Gilmore

Dame Mary Gilmore was a notable socialist poet and journalist. She was known for her (at the time) radical views, and was regarded as one of Australia’s most popular and widely known poets. She is one of the very few writers to have been accorded a state funeral.

20 DollarsThe twenty dollar note – Mary Reibey

Mary Reibey was an Englishwoman who began in Australia as a convict but eventually became a successful businesswoman in Sydney. She was also respected for her charitable works, and has had novels written based on her life.

50 DollarsThe fifty dollar note – Edith Cowan

Edith Cowan was the first woman elected to Australian parliament. She was involved in the successful campaign to gain the vote for women, and founded the Children’s Protection Society, which helped to introduce children’s courts into Australia. She was elected to Parliament, ironically defeating the Attorney General who had passed the legislation allowing her to stand for parliament in the first place.

The hundred dollar note – Dame Nellie Melba

Dame Nellie Melba was an Australian operatic soprano, and was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She found success in many countries, including Paris, Belgium, England, and American. Later in her life she taught singing in Melbourne, and when she died, her death made news internationally.Dame Nellie Melba

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