A Guide to Australia's Banknotes

Australian Currency
Australian Currency | © Peterfz30 / Shutterstock
Tom Smith

Australia’s banknotes are as colourful as the country itself, with a series of mauve, blue, red, yellow and green notes filling wallets across the country. But who are the faces that adorn the AUD? Read on to find out.


The first Australian banknotes were issued on 14 February, 1966, when the country swapped the Australian pound for a new decimal currency. AUD originally came in denominations of $1, $2, $10 and $20 (as well as 1¢, 2¢, 5¢, 10¢ and 20¢ coins), before adding the $5 in 1967, $50 in 1973 and $100 in 1984.

Early designs

The design of those first banknotes focused on Australian flora and fauna, as well as the country’s achievements in the fields of science and architecture, in particular. Agronomist William Farrer, botanist Joseph Banks, humanitarian Caroline Chisolm, convict/architect Francis Greenway, aviator Charles Kingsford Smith, CSIRO godfather Ian Clunies Ross and Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson were a few of the faces to appear alongside native plants and animals.

An original Australian $2 banknote featuring wool pioneer John Macarthur

Polymer pioneers

Australia produced the world’s first polymer banknotes in 1988, commemorating the bicentenary of European colonisation in Australia. That groundbreaking $10 bill featured the First Fleet arriving in Sydney Cove on one side and a portrait of an Indigenous man on the other and featured a cutting-edge transparent ‘window’ depicting Captain James Cook as an anti-counterfeit security measure.

Chemist David Solomon holding the first ever polymer banknote

The Reserve Bank of Australia replaced $1 and $2 notes with coins in the 1980s, then phased out the original banknotes with polymer replacements between 1992 and 1996. These new plastic bills also celebrated a new set of public figures who have made a significant contribution to Australian society.


The mauve-coloured fiver features Queen Elizabeth II on its front side and Canberra’s Parliament House on the reverse. A special version was produced in 2001 to mark the centenary of Australia’s federation, depicting long-serving New South Wales premier and ‘father of federation’ Henry Parkes, plus writer and suffragist Catherine Helen Spence. A new ‘Next Generation’ version with an expanded transparent window and a tactile feature for the visually impaired has been in circulation since 2016.

Australian $5 banknote


The light blue tenner carries portraits of two giants of Australian literature, Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Dame Mary Gilmore. Paterson is shown alongside horses representing his iconic poem The Man from Snowy River, and Gilmore is drawn with verses from her poetry as well as motifs from her writing. A Next Generation $10 banknote was also issued in 2017.

Australian $10 banknote


Affectionately known as a ‘lobster’ due to its red colour, the $20 banknote portrays convict businesswoman Mary Reibey and protestant minister John Flynn. Reibey appears alongside a sailing ship and a colonial-era building, while Flynn is accompanied by an early Qantas plane, symbolising the Royal Flying Doctor Service he founded, vastly improving the quality of medical care in outback Australia.

Australian $20 banknote


The $50 bill — nicknamed a ‘pineapple’ because of its yellow hue — includes Indigenous polymath David Unaipon and female trailblazer Edith Cowan. Unaipon sits alongside a collection of his inventions that helped smash archaic stereotypes about Aboriginal people, and Cowan — who championed the welfare of women and children in Western Australia — is positioned in front of Western Australia’s original parliament house, where she became the first female member of any Australian parliament.

Australia $50 banknotes


The rarely spotted hundred dollar note features two giant figures in Australian history, Dame Nellie Melba and Sir John Monash. Melba — who took her stage name from her home town of Melbourne — was one of the planet’s most famous singers during the Victorian era, while Monash — considered one of World War One’s most accomplished commanders — is Australia’s most revered military figure.

Australian $100 banknotes
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.