Poets, businesswomen, doctors and inventors

I once heard a person, in reference to the note at right, that you could tell a great deal about a country by who they chose to put on their notes. He felt it spoke well of Japan that Fukuzawa Yukichi, a thinker and philosopher, was chosen for their currency. I don’t really buy this idea, but it does flatter Australia.

I realised this week I couldn’t name every (real) person on Australian currency, and sought to rectify that. What professions we have sought to put on dollars old and new? Asides from the sovereign, we have represented:

Pastorialists, scientists/inventors (5!), humanitarians, architects,  poets (3!), aviators, doctors, businesswomen and opera singers.

Of politicians, who dominate US bills, we have but one on regular notes; and that is a tribute to making democracy represent everyone. Of professional specialists in violence, who are those that states tend to honour the most, we have but one, and that one  is renowned as much for the way the troops were fed as for their victories.

There’s also an appealing modesty about what a nation should be proud of. Below is an image I once saw in the NSW State Library, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great White Fleet visiting Australia. The three figures are Brittania, Columbia and Australia – an Anglophonic trinity. Brittania holds a trident; a symbol of mastery of the sea, and of military power. Columbia holds the torch of liberty; a symbol of ideals, and the power of ideas. Australia however holds a shepherd’s crook. What pride she has, and what power she has, is rooted in the peaceful and the practical and, with hope, she will master both.

I’ve not named any of the women and men on our currency, in hope that at least one person will be led into reading about them. The great thing about exploring knowledge like this is that it can even lead you to learn things, like how our long lost cousins (remnants of a failed utopian dream of a New Australia) live even now in Paraguay (Youtube is engineered to select the few titilating frames in a video).



About Richard Tsukamasa Green

Richard Tsukamasa Green is an economist. Public employment means he can't post on policy much anymore. Also found at @RHTGreen on twitter.
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9 years ago

This may also be of interest in relation to New Australia.

9 years ago

Interesting to see that the Australian woman with the shepherd’s crook is flying the Red Ensign indicating that her authority is commercial rather that government or military.

Where are they now though? Talk to Richard North about the state of the British Navy… it’s the US Navy who rules the world’s shipping lanes these days (and they have taken on the mantle of Empire as well, while largely throwing away their original concept of individual liberty). Australia has allowed New Zealand to displace us somewhat in the wool business, but we have diversified. We should get Gina in for a photo shoot with a mining hat.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

“Interesting to see that the Australian woman with the shepherd’s crook is flying the Red Ensign indicating that her authority is commercial rather that government or military.

Perhaps she represents Elizabeth Macarthur a hardworking intelligent entrepreneurial women if ever there was one. According to wiki “Elizabeth oversaw the family estates at Parramatta, Camden, Seven Hills and Pennant Hills.

This included the management of household and business accounts, the employment of convict labour, the supervision of wool washing, baling and transport and the selection of rams and breeding to improve the flock.

While John expressed his gratitude and admiration in her ability to cope, her irregular and inadequate correspondence was of constant concern. Nonetheless, her contribution was essential to the success of the enterprise and establishing New South Wales as a reliable supplier of quality wool.

In England, John used his flair to promote the Australian wool industry while Elizabeth used her organisational ability and application to produce the wool.”

Interesting that her ‘irregular and inadequate’ correspondence is ‘concerning’; it seems to me that she must have been rather busy doing both a woman’s work – raising their children and running the households as well as running the business and time for letter writing might have been a bit hard to find.