The Australian dollar (AUD) is a decimal money system that consists of cents and dollars. There are 100 cents to each dollar.
Prior to 1966, Australia was using pounds, shillings and pence. Plans for a new currency for Australia began in 1963, and while they were brainstorming for the name of the new Australian currency in 1965, some suggestions included the astral, oz, roo, kanga, emu, digger, dinkum and the ming, which was PM Sir Robert Menzies nickname.
The PM initially proposed calling the new currency the ‘royal’, but the ‘dollar’ was chosen instead and the new decimal currency was introduced in 1966. The rate of conversion at the time was two Australian dollars for every Australian pound.
The Current Money System
All Australian coins are produced by the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra and have the bust of Queen Elizabeth II on the ‘head’ side and a different image on the ‘tails’ side.
- The 5 cent coin gives a picture of an echidna. Also known as a spiny ant eater, these cute little balls of prickles are monotremes, which means they are egg-laying mammals.
- The 10 cent coin depicts a male lyrebird – an Australian native that is famous for their mimicking skill and their beautiful tail that they fan out during courtship displays.
- The 20 cent coin has the river-dwelling platypus on it, which looks a little like a duck and a beaver mixed together. Like the echidna, it is also an egg-laying mammal. There are only two species of monotremes in the world and they both live in Australia.
- The big 50 cent coin presents Australia’s coat of arms – a shield held up by a kangaroo and an emu.
The $1 and $2 coins were introduced in the 1980s to replace notes. While the silver coins are made from copper and nickel, the $1 and $2 coins are made from aluminium and bronze and have a gold colour.
- The $1 coin has five kangaroos on it.
- The $2 coin shows the face of an Aboriginal tribal elder, as well as the Southern Cross constellation.
Polymer banknotes were introduced in 1988 with a commemorative $10 note that marked Australia’s bicentenary. This was due to the detection of counterfeit notes and the Reserve Bank of Australia needed to find a new way to secure banknotes against forgery.
After the release of the $100 polymer note in 1996, Australia became the first country in the world to have all of their bank notes made from plastic. Polymer notes last four times longer than paper notes and are harder to counterfeit.
The $5 note has her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the front and Parliament House in Canberra on the back.
The $10 note features poets on both sides. Banjo Patterson is on the front and Dame Mary Gilmore is on the back, and both of their portraits are over micro-printed excerpts of their writings.
The orange $20 note has shipping philanthropist Mary Reibey on the front and the founder of the Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia, the Reverend John Flynn on the back.
The $50 note has the portrait of aboriginal writer and inventor David Unaipon on the front, and the first female parliamentarian, Edith Cowan on the back.
The green $100 note was first released in 1996 and features Dame Nellie Melba, an operatic soprano who was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician, and First World War general Sir John Monash, who was also a civil engineer and administrator.