Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Faces on Australian Currency

This morning I've been working on a series of trivia questions on famous Australians, and in the process of doing that research it struck me that the faces on Australian currency tended to be writers, scientists, and others whose contributions to national life involved something other than government service.

This is in marked contrast to the U.S. Our currency contains only politicians--Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson, Franklin, and Cleveland.

I decided to check this out and do a systematic review of Australian currency. There are 4 names for most denominations because there are 2 versions of most of them, and different faces are on the front and back of each version.

$5 note -- Queen Elizabeth II

$10 note -- Francis Greenway (architect), Henry Lawson (poet), Banjo Paterson (poet), Mary Gilmer (poet)

$20 note -- Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith (aviator), Lawrence Hargrave (scientist who was the first to fly), Mary Reibey (shipping entrepreneur), John Flynn (started the Royal Flying Doctor Service)

$50 note -- Howard Florey (co-discoverer of penicillin), Sir Ian Clunies-Ross (scientitst), David Unaipon (inventor and first published Aboriginal author), Edith Cowan (first female Member of Parliament)

$100 note -- Douglas Mawson (explorer of Antarctica), Sir John Tebbutt (astronomer)

From this review it is apparent that Australia does indeed make a point of honoring people other than its politicians. The U.S. could, I think, learn much from this example. While I love politics and have no problem with honoring Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, all of whom were instrumental in the founding and development of our system of government, the others seem silly and should be replaced by a broader range of contributors to our national life.

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