Saturday, January 2, 2010

centennial coins

Australia day is just around the corner (January 25th). It celebrates the first landing of the colonists. However, Australia's closest equivalent of the 4th of July (US independence day) is "Federation" on January 1st when the Commonwealth of Australia was formed out of 6 british colonies. They appear to be totally into it here, right at midnight December 31st, there were heaps of fireworks, big parties, and cheering. Loads of people were roaming the streets late into the night, completely stink-o.

In 2001 was the 100 year anniversary and it was celebrated by a set of centenary coins, one for each state. They're probably the hardest of the circulated 50-cent pieces to come by. In no particular order:
The coat of arms of Victoria where Melbourne is. From top to bottom, a kangaroo holds a crown. Two women (peace, holding the olive branch and prosperity, holding the cornucopia) support a shield containing the Southern Cross constellation of stars. The base is a grassy mound (called a "Compartment" in coat of arms parlance) and the sprigs growing out the back are Pink Heath, the official flower of Victoria.

Norfolk Island? Seems like a weird one. It's a "self governing" Australian territory, an island half the size of Manhattan with ~2,000 residents far off in the Pacific. Indeed, it's cheaper to fly there from New Zealand than Australia. From the web:

"The arms show a Norfolk Island pine, a native tree, on a rocky mount. The stars are taken from the Australian arms, as well as from the arms of James Cook, who discovered the island in 1774. The anchor, the naval crown and the bible refer to the background of the first settlers, which moved to Norfolk from Pitcairn. The division of the arms is also identical to the arms of Pitcairn. The lion on the crest wears a laurel wreath, which is taken from the arms of James Cook. The cup is taken from the arms of Fletcher Christian, the founder of the Pitcairn Island settlement. The supporters refer to the ties with Britain and Australia. The motto is taken from Matthew 25:34 ["Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."]

I would've imagined that some of Australia's seven other minor territories would've had a chance but maybe they didn't have coats of arms...or an active tourism board.

The Australian Capital Territory gets mention though. Its coat of arms is chockablock with symbolism, mostly related to government (the castle, the crown, the mace and sword). ACT's motto (along the bottom) used to be in Latin "For the King, for the Law, and for the People" until someone pointed out that the translation was actually "... and for the Mob". This coat of arms also features the white and black swans. White swans were a sign of english culture, whereas black swans are more Australian, at times even representative of aborigines.

Western Australia also uses the black swans, swimming in its natural habitat. Kangaroo paw flowers surround the crown on the top and two kangaroos hold boomerangs (again symbolizing aborigines).
More kangaroos in the Northern Territory. This blowup shows a bit more detail of what the coat looks like, but its full of symbolism of fauna, flora, and aborigine art.

Still more kangaroos in New South Wales. Some say the Kangaroo has trouble walking backwards and so is a symbol of moving forward and progress. The lion is a "British" Lion to symbolize English and multicultural roots. The motto is "Newly risen, how bright you shine" (being on the east coast, New South Wales greets the sunrise over the ocean... See also the rising sun at the top of the coat of arms). Every one of those small things in the center (lions, sheep, wheat) has about 3-4 levels of symbolism.

South Australia has a miner's pick and cogs on the right. The bird in the center is a "piping shrike", although there's nothing actually called that, it may be a Murray Magpie. Sturt's pea flowers sprout out the top and the other symbols are for grazing and agriculture.

Queensland's motto is "Bold but faithful". Two stalks of sugarcane surround the crown and maltese cross on top. According to wikipedia, no one quite knows why the maltese cross is used. The shield has a bull, a ram, wheat and gold rising from a pile of quartz. The bird is the Brolga, Australia's only native crane and the red deer is because the queen once gave Queensland some deer as a gift... and they like the queen I guess.

Finally, Tasmania! The motto is "fertility and faithfulness". The shield has wheat, thunderbolts, hops, a ram and apples. The lion on the top is holding a pick and shovel. The shield is held up by two Tasmanian Tigers, which has long been extinct. Tasmania doesn't use this coat of arms much anymore, but instead has replaced it by their government logo, again with the tiger.

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