Australia Won’t Put King Charles on Its 5-Dollar Bill

February 3, 2023 7:23 am

[Source: New York Times]

King Charles III will not succeed Queen Elizabeth II on Australia’s 5-dollar bill, which will instead be redesigned to honour Indigenous Australians and their history.

The decision, announced by the country’s central bank on Thursday, rekindled debate about republicanism in Australia, with critics decrying it as “woke nonsense” and others lauding the change. Although Australia is independent, it remains a constitutional monarchy with the British sovereign as its head of state.

It will take several years to be designed and printed, according to the bank. The 5-dollar bill (worth about $3.57) is the only Australian note that features the monarch, and earlier bills have featured examples of ancient and contemporary Aboriginal art. Charles is set to replace Elizabeth on Australian coins, the government announced a few weeks earlier.

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For critics, the absence of the monarch from the bill was yet more evidence of a stealth government effort to impose republicanism on Australia.

Philip Benwell, the leader of the Australian Monarchist League, was even more strident in his criticism.

After his election last year, Mr. Albanese was appointed Australia’s first minister for the republic, prompting speculation that a referendum on the issue would follow.

Mr. Chalmers, the treasurer, disputed these allegations.

Surveys suggest that fewer Australians favour the status quo regarding the monarchy than in the past. In one recent poll, 31 percent said they were in favour of retaining the monarchy, down from 54 percent in the last official referendum on the issue, which was held in 1999. (Australia became fully independent from Britain in 1942.)

The Australian Republic Movement applauded the new design and the recognition of Indigenous history. The head of the organization, Craig Foster, a former captain of the Australian soccer team, added: “Australia believes in meritocracy, so the idea that someone should be on our currency by birthright is irreconcilable, as is the notion that they should be our head of state by birthright.”

Dixon Patten, an Indigenous Australian designer and artist based in Melbourne, said the new bill would hopefully precipitate more conversations about the values of modern Australia.

Ideally, he said, he would like to see images of native flora and fauna, or scenes of “country,” an Indigenous phrase referring to Australian lands and waterways, on the note.