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Stacks of the new Australian $5 note, which comes into circulation on September 1, 2016. It may be the smallest denomination note, but the design attracted an outsized amount of criticism. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Back step

New banknote replaces celebrated suffragist with “lump of neo-brutalist architecture”

By WITW Staff on April 13, 2016


The design of the new Australian $5 note is causing a major upset Down Under, and not just because it is considered by many to be “the most hideous banknote in history,” but also because it has replaced the image of a celebrated women’s rights campaigner and all-round high achiever.


The portrait of Catherine Helen Spence — “the first Australian woman novelist to write about Australian issues, the mother of the Australian foster care system, the leading campaigner for proportional representation in government, a hero of the women’s suffrage movement, and Australia’s first female political candidate, according to author David Hunt — was replaced by an image of the nation’s Parliament House; “a lump of neo-brutalist architecture.”

In this undated handout photo from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released on April 12, 2016 stacks of new style five Australian dollar note are seen, which will replace its more bland pink, purple and orange predecessor from September 1, 2016. It may be the smallest-denominated banknote for the Australian dollar, but the central bank's new design for the bill attracted an outsized amount of criticism Down Under on April 12, 2016 with detractors describing it as "like vomit" and "hideous". / AFP / STR / XGTY ----EDITORS NOTE ----RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT - AFP PHOTO / RESERVE BANK OF AUSTRALIA - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Stacks of the new-style Australian five dollar note, which will replace its predecessor from September 1, 2016. It may be the smallest denomination note in Australia, but the new design attracted an outsized amount of criticism (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The retrograde step comes just as Canada has made a commitment to including a woman in its next issue of banknotes. Until April 15, Canadians can visit the Bank of Canada’s website to submit nominations for who they think should appear on the bill. And in the U.S., Treasury will also announce a new design for the $10 bill in 2016, featuring a woman. The redesigned bills will  reflect “democratic ideals, and our striving to make those ideals a reality,” according to the Treasury. Among the frontrunners to “break the paper ceiling” and join Alexander Hamilton on the U.S. $10 note are Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, and Harriet Tubman.

Read the full story at The Sydney Morning Herald.