With the release of our Australian Citizenship coin for 2014, we’ve been on the hunt for interesting facts about the Australian Coat of Arms featured prominently on the reverse.
You’ve probably already heard this, but it’s often said the emu and the kangaroo were chosen because neither animal is capable of taking a step backwards. The inference is these creatures symbolise the progression of the nation.
Almost 100 years before Australia’s received its Coat of Arms in 1908, however, these two animals appeared in a similar stance on ‘Bowman’s flag’.
John Bowman was a Scottish free-settler who arrived in New South Wales in 1798 and took up farming in the Hawkesbury region. Although thousands of miles from home, he was sufficiently inspired by Britain’s naval victory over France at Trafalgar in 1805 to commission his remarkable silk flag.
Considered to be the first Australian-made flag, it portrayed an emu to the right and a kangaroo to the left of a shield under which appeared Nelson’s famous order: “England expects every man will do his duty.”
Their presence indicates that by the early nineteenth century the two animals were recognised within the colony as the unofficial symbols of Australia.
Today, Bowman’s precious artefact is held at the State Library of New South Wales, which suggests it may have been the true inspiration for the use of the kangaroo and emu on the present-day Coat of Arms.