Australia’s Currency | Part 2

Before 1966, Australia made the rounds through an innumerable amount of currencies—one even being rum for a short time. European settlers in Australia used currencies such as the holey dollar, the dump (the stamped center out of the holey dollar), shillings, pounds, and Australian commonwealth coins—all in a relatively short time span from the first boots that hit the ground in 1788.

But in 1966, stability came to Australia’s currency. The nation finally adopted a decimal currency system that built a strong foundation of Australia’s modern financial world.

The Inception of Decimal Currency

Valentine’s Day 1966 was more than a day celebrated by lovers. It marked the end of the cumbersome Australian pound and the incarnation of an economically-minded Australian dollar.

Source: 1966 50 Cent Coin

The cataclysmic shift was indeed a step in a positive direction for the inner workings of the country, but it was a signal of something greater—decimalisation became a turning point for Australia to cement itself as one of the most forward-thinking nations.

Transitioning a Nation

If you can imagine upheaving an entire monetary system, it’s not an uncomplicated process. Decimalisation came with confounding difficulties and logistical challenges as designs needed to be completed and an entire nation had to be converted. There had to be training measures and campaigns that put public confidence into the new system (and the value of the money) and rigorous education about conversion rates had to be carried out.

Naturally, there was some resistance, but overall, the transition was a smooth one that was given ample time for smoothing over issues that may have arisen. The star of the decimalisation show was Dollar Bill, a cartoon character that streamed across every possible media outlet for two entire years prior to C-Day.

The naming process was one of the more difficult aspects of the new currency. Public sourcing drew around 1,000 propositions, many with Australian-inspired aspects. The ‘roo,’ ‘digger,’ and even the ‘Royal’ lost out to the dollar, which was exceedingly popular and well-accepted by the public.

A New Minting Operation

When it came time to mint coins and print notes, the Australian government had to devise an entirely new minting operation. The biggest cost to decimalisation was the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, which opened a year prior to C-Day and was able to produce a billion coins in that timeframe.

Source: The Royal Australian Mint Canberra

C-Day: A Nation Changes

If a national currency transition could go smoothly, Australia’s was like butter—even the Decimal Currency Board was surprised at the lack of hiccups during decimalisation.

New Zealand and Britain watched over Australia’s decimalisation process like hawks. They must have been thoroughly convinced, because New Zealand switched only a year later, and Britain in 1971.

Source: Australian Dollar


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