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Australia - Currency

Australia has a set of bank notes which are made from a polymer material rather than paper. This ensures that they can last much longer than standard bank notes and that they are much harder to forge. The process for creating these notes was developed in Australia. The notes stay cleaner and can be easily recycled when needed. The currency consists of notes in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. These are in addition to the coins which are 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c, as well as $1 and $2.

When Australia was developing as a country there were different currencies in use and many people even opted for a barter system rather than use actual money. The Bank of New South Wales issued Police Fund Notes in 1816 and these were some of the first actual Australian notes. Australia became an independent nation in 1901 and the government had to take responsibility for its own currency. An act of government was passed in 1910 which allowed the government to regulate the currency and the first notes were issued in 1913 and it was based on the British currency of the time, old pounds and shillings. There were 12 pence to each shilling and a pound consisted of 20 shillings.

However, Australia moved to a decimal system much earlier than the UK. Australia’s decimalisation began in 1963 and there were more than 1000 suggestions for a name for the new currency. The government of the day eventually settled on the dollar. The full change to decimalisation took place in 1966. It quickly became obvious that stringent measures were needed to prevent forged notes as these began to circulate very quickly. The polymer notes began to appear in 1988. The Bank of Australia is responsible for the production of bank notes and the new hard-wearing versions have several features which make them very difficult to forge, so coming across counterfeit money in Australia is extremely rare.

Australian bank notes feature notable Australians. At the present time the $100 has Dame Nellie Melba and General Sir John Monash. An aboriginal writer, David Unaipon and politician Edith Cowan are featured on the $50 note. The Reverend John Flynn was the founder of the flying doctor service and he, along with Mary Reibey, former convict and later a shipping magnate, feature on the $20 note. There are poets on the $10 note – AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Dame Mary Gilmore – while the $5 has the face of Queen Elizabeth II and the parliament buildings in Canberra.

There is a $2 coin which took the place of an old banknote in 1988. The image on the coin is that of an aboriginal man. The image on the $1 coin is of 5 kangaroos. The 50c features the coat of arms of the country. The 20c coin has an image of the platypus and the 10c coin has a lyrebird. The 5c coin has another animal on it, the echidna. The coins are made from cupro-nickel and these are occasionally minted with different designs on them to commemorate different occasions such as the Olympics.

The country’s Royal Mint produces all the coins in Canberra. The mint opened first in 1965 and can produce millions of coins each day if needed. Australia regularly produces currency for other countries too, although mainly those in the Pacific region.

There are various slang references for different amounts of money in Australia and you may hear different terms in different areas. If you use some terms on a regular basis then travel to another part of Australia and use the same terms you may find that you will not be understood. Some terms have travelled over from cockney slang such as referring to $500 as a monkey. A $10 note is often known as a policeman, because of the blue colour. $20 may be referred to as a lobster or a redback, due to the colour. $50 is often heard referred to as a pineapple or a Toni Barber and some call it a golden drink voucher, while $100 might be called a spot, a white pointer or an avocado. However, it would not be uncommon to find yourself in an area where money is talked about using no slang at all.

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