Australian Coins = Racist Stereotype

CoinsWhy isn’t there more discussion – or in fact outrage – about the imagery on Australian coins?

Who is the Aboriginal man featured on the $2 coin, or does he not need a name because he’s just another example of Australia’s fauna and flora?

And I suppose it is simply a coincidence that the indigenous plant included on the $2 coin (to the right of the numeral 2) is a Xanthorrhoea – a plant commonly called a blackboy?

The 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent pieces were released in 1966 – before Aboriginal people were even granted Australian citizenship.

But the $1 and $2 coins were added in 1984 and 1988.  Yes, the $2 coin was released in the year of Australia’s bicentenary… the celebration of of 200 years of white settlement.  Or invasion.  Or colonisation.  You can see the problem, surely.

The Royal Australian Mint has, on its website,  a policy about the design of commemorative coins:

$2 coinA coin theme will not be approved if it could be considered offensive or potentially exposes the Australian Government to legal risks. The following subjects are, as a general rule, not to be depicted on commemorative circulating coins:  individuals, living or deceased, other than members of the Royal family…

The Mint’s policy regarding the coins in everyday circulation does not seem to be available.

I’m obviously not the first person to raise the issue because there is a FAQ on the Mint’s site about the $2 coin.

Who is on the $2 coin?  The image is a representation of an Aboriginal tribal elder, based on the original artwork of Ainslie Roberts and designed by Horst Hahne. It is not intended to depict any person in particular.

Why aren’t we agitating for change?

2018-03-21T14:55:42+10:00 November 10th, 2014|Life|5 Comments


  1. Peter January 25, 2015 at 11:49 am - Reply

    What we should do is to insist that the side of the $2 coin with the Aboriginal elder is heads, and the other side is tails.

  2. Anonymous July 13, 2018 at 6:51 pm - Reply There are plenty of things needing to be changed, but your shopping for offence won’t help.

  3. Anonymous June 7, 2019 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    As an Indigenous Australian, i do not find this offensive in the slightest. The indigenous elder is on the 2 dollar coin, the highest coin you can get and this gives the feeling of being the most important part of the ecosystem, as a master of the bush and the caretaker of the land. Culturally as well, we also consider ourselves to be one with the land and our entire culture is built from dreamtime stories and language that was developed here in Australia. I can see how some would see this as offensive, but i do not take it this way, it feels almost respectful personally.

    • Michelle Scott Tucker June 15, 2019 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      Thank you for this comment, and I’m terribly pleased to know that the image on the coin isn’t found offensive by all Indigenous Australians. Recent research (by others, not me) claims that the man on the $2 coins is Gwoya Jungarai and he was one of the only survivors of one of the last recognised massacres of Aboriginal people, the 1928 Coniston Massacre in Central Australia.
      Although the design was not intended to depict any particular person, the face on the coin was designed by Horst Hahne based on a drawing of Jungarai by artist Ainslie Roberts. If you search on any of these terms, I’m sure you’ll find out more.

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