About Australia

Coat of arms

The present coat of arms was granted by King George V in 1912. It consists of a shield depicting the badges of the six Australian states, enclosed by an ermine border. The shield is a symbol for the federation of the states, which took place in 1901.

The Australian coat of arms is commonly but incorrectly referred to as the ‘Commonwealth Crest’. Strictly speaking, the crest is the device above the shield and helmet on a coat of arms. The Australian crest is a seven-pointed gold star on a blue and gold wreath. Six of the points represent each of the states of the Commonwealth; the seventh point represents Australia’s territories.

The supporters are native Australian animals: the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) and the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). It is thought the kangaroo and emu were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forward, reflecting a common belief that neither animal can move backwards easily.

The first official coat of arms of Australia was granted by a Royal Warrant of King Edward VII in 1908. This coat of arms was used on some Australian coins even after it was superseded in 1912, and last appeared on the sixpenny piece in 1966.

Usually the arms is depicted on a background of sprays of golden wattle with a scroll beneath it containing the word ‘Australia’. The wattle and scroll, however, are not part of the armorial design and are not mentioned in the Royal Warrant.

The Australian Government uses the coat of arms to authenticate documents and for other official purposes. Its uses range from embellishing the Australian passport to forming part of all Australian government departmental insignias. The use of the coat of arms by private citizens or organisations is rarely permitted by the Australian Government, and doing so would contravene laws relating to misrepresentation, forgery or trademark infringement.

Australia has never adopted any official motto or faunal emblem. By popular tradition, however, the kangaroo and emu are widely accepted as such. The golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was proclaimed the official national floral emblem in August 1988.

For many years, the motto ‘Advance Australia’ appeared on unofficial coats of arms, even before the federation of the states in 1901. It was included in the 1908 arms, and was popularly accepted in association with the 19th century song ‘Advance Australia Fair’. A revised version of this song officially became Australia’s national anthem in 1984 (see fact sheet on the Australian national anthem). On that same day, Australia also officially adopted green and gold as its national colours. Until then, the nation had no official national colours, although the use of green and gold by Australia’s international sporting teams had become a tradition and had been associated with its Olympic teams since the 1920s.

The Australian coat of arms consists of the badges of the six states of the Commonwealth arranged on a shield in two rows of three columns:

State and territory coats of arms

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory has no coat of arms. However, a coat of arms for the city of Canberra, the national capital of Australia, was granted by King George V in 1928. The motto embodied in the coat of arms is ‘For the Queen, the Law and the People’. The supporters are a black swan and white swan, symbolising the Aboriginal and European races.

New South Wales

King Edward VII granted a coat of arms to the State of New South Wales in 1906. The description of the arms embodies the motto Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites (Newly Risen, How Bright Thou Shinest).

Northern Territory

Until the Northern Territory was granted self-government on 1 July 1978, it was administered by the federal government and used the national coat of arms. The territory’s own coat of arms was granted in 1978. The shield contains Aboriginal motifs associated with Arnhem Land. The supporters are two red kangaroos and the crest is a wedge-tailed eagle.

Queensland

Queen Victoria granted a coat of arms to the then colony of Queensland in 1893. The supporters, a red deer (Cervus elaphus) and a brolga (Grus rubicunda), were assigned in 1977 by Queen Elizabeth II. The motto of Queensland, Audax at Fidelis (Bold but Faithful), is embodied in the description of the coat of arms.

South Australia

The state’s coat of arms was granted by Queen Elizabeth II on 19 April 1984. The shield contains the state badge, comprising the white-backed magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen leuconota), standing on a staff of gum tree, against a gold orb representing the sun. The crest is the state’s floral emblem, Sturt’s desert pea (swainsona formosus), above a collar of the state’s colours: red, blue and gold. The present coat of arms replaced the arms granted by King Edward VIII in 1936.

Tasmania

The coat of arms of the island state was granted by King George V in 1917 and the description of the arms is the motto, Ubertas et Fidelitas (Fertility and Faithfulness). The supporters of the shield in the arms are two Tasmanian tigers (Thylacinus cynocephalus), which in modern times have been found only in Tasmania and are now presumed extinct.

Victoria

In 1910 King George V granted a coat of arms to the state of Victoria, which was named after his grandmother. In 1973 certain additions were made to the coat of arms and a Royal Warrant was issued by Queen Elizabeth II. The description of the arms is the motto ‘Peace and Prosperity’.

Western Australia

Western Australia’s coat of arms had its origins in 1829 when British settlers established the Swan River colony. Their successors adopted an unofficial emblem which featured the black swan and the motto, a Latin pun, Cygnis Insignis (Distinguished for Swans). The coat of arms, which now carries no motto, was given official sanction when Queen Elizabeth II granted arms to the state in 1969.

Key facts

Further information