An AU$5 note featuring the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Australia’s central bank has announced that King Charles III will not feature on the country’s new five dollar note.
The new design will pay tribute to “the culture and history” of Indigenous Australians, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
A portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth II appears on the current design of the five dollar note.
The Queen’s death last year reignited debates about Australia’s future as a constitutional monarchy.
While Thursday’s announcement by the RBA said that its new $5 bill would feature an Indigenous design rather than an image of King Charles III, the king is still expected to appear on coins that currently bear the image of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The $5 bill was Australia’s only remaining bank note to still feature an image of the monarch.
The bank said that the decision followed consultation with the centre-left Labour Party government, which supported the change.
Opponents say the move is politically motivated.
The British monarch remains Australia’s Head of State, although these days that role is largely symbolic.
Like many former British colonies, Australia is debating to what extent it should retain its constitutional ties to Britain.
The RBA said that the new $5 bill would feature a design to replace the portrait of the queen, who died last year.
The move would honour “the culture and history of the First Australians,” according to the bank.
“The other side of the $5 banknote will continue to feature the Australian Parliament,” the bank said in a statement.
“This decision by the Reserve Bank Board follows consultation with the Australian government, which supports this change,” the bank said.
“The Bank will consult with First Australians in designing the $5 banknote. The new banknote will take a number of years to be designed and printed. 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,” it added.
The A$5 banknote is the only Australian banknote to carry the image of a British monarch.
The late Queen appears on the country’s coins as well, although Australia is transitioning to using an effigy of King Charles III.
The RBA has not yet set a date for when it will reveal the new five dollar note design.
The decision was welcomed by Aboriginal politicians and community leaders.
“This is a massive win for the grassroots, First Nations people who have been fighting to decolonise this country,” said Lidia Thorpe, a Greens senator and DjabWurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman.
First Nations people lived in Australia for at least 65,000 years before British colonisation, according to recent estimates.
The King became the British monarch after his mother’s death in September.
As the British monarch, he is also in a largely ceremonial role the Head of State of Australia, New Zealand and 12 other Commonwealth realms outside the United Kingdom.
The British monarch’s portrait has appeared on at least one design in every series of Australian banknotes.
However, in September Australia said that the image of the new monarch would not automatically replace the Queen on its five-dollar notes, and that she might be replaced by Australian figures.
Much of Australia’s currency already features Indigenous Australian figures and artworks.
In 1999 referendum Australian voters chose to keep the British monarch as the country’s Head of State.
In 2021, Australia officially changed its national anthem to remove reference to the country being “young and free”, amid calls to recognise that its Indigenous people are the oldest civilization in the world.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said that the change in the design of the AU$5 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.
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 was quoted as having told 2GB Radio.
Dutton said that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was central to the decision for the king not to appear on the note, urging him to “own up to it.”
After taking office last year, Albanese started laying the groundwork for an Australian Republic by creating a new position of Assistant Minister for the Republic, but holding a referendum to sever constitutional ties with Britain has not been a first-order priority for his government.
The bank plans to consult with Indigenous groups in designing the $5 note, a process it expects will take several years before the new note goes public.
The current $5 will be issued until the new design is introduced and will remain legal tender even after the new bill goes into circulation.
The face of King Charles III is expected to be seen on Australian coins later this year.
One Australian dollar is worth about 71 cents in United States (US) currency.
British currency began transitioning to the new monarch with the release of the 50 pence coin in December. It has Charles on the front of the coin while the back commemorates his mother.
This week, there were 208 million $5 notes in circulation worth AU$1.04 billion ($734 million), according to the RBA.
Australia’s smallest denomination accounts for 10 per cent of the more than two billion Australian bank notes circulating.
Albanese’s centre-left Labour Party is seeking to make Australia a Republic with an Australian citizen as Head of State instead of the British monarch.
After Labour won elections in May last year, Albanese appointed Matt Thistlethwaite as Assistant Minister for the Republic.
Thistlethwaite said in June there would be no change in the Queen’s lifetime.
Australians voted in a 1999 referendum proposed by a Labour government to maintain the British monarch as Australia’s Head of State.
When the Queen died, the government had already committed to holding a referendum this year to acknowledge Indigenous people in the constitution.
The government has dismissed adding a republic question to that referendum as an unwanted distraction from its Indigenous priority.
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.
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