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Australia to replace monarch on banknote with design honoring indigenous culture

SYDNEY — Australia will replace the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on its A$5 banknote with a new design to reflect and honor the history of its Indigenous culture, the country’s central bank said on Thursday.

The decision follows consultation with the federal government, which supports the change, the Reserve Bank of Australia said in a statement. The other side of the note will continue to feature the Australian Parliament, it said.

Queen Elizabeth’s death last year has reignited debate in Australia about its future as a constitutional monarchy. Voters narrowly chose to maintain the British monarch as its head of state in a 1999 referendum.

The decision also comes as Australia’s center-left Labor government pushes for a referendum, required to alter the constitution, to recognize Indigenous people in the document and require consultation with them on decisions that affect their lives.

Australian authorities had said following the queen’s death that the image of King Charles III would not automatically replace her on A$5 notes, and that she might be replaced by Australian figures.

The decision to include her image on the A$5-dollar note was about her personality as opposed to her status as the monarch, they said at the time.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is a long-standing republican, but had said after the death of the queen in September it was “not a time” for a debate on the role of the monarchy in Australia.

Peter Dutton, leader of the main opposition Liberal Party, said the central bank’s decision was politically motivated.

“There’s no question about this, that it’s directed by the government and I think the Prime Minister should own up to it,” he said on local radio station 2GB.

The Reserve Bank said it would consult with Indigenous groups in designing the A$5 banknote. It will take a number of years to design and print the new banknote. Until then, the current note will continue to be issued.

“This is a massive win for the grassroots, First Nations people who have been fighting to decolonize this country,” tweeted Lidia Thorpe, an opposition Green Party lawmaker of Indigenous descent.

In 2021, Australia officially amended its national anthem to remove reference to the country being “young and free” amid calls to recognize that its Indigenous people are the oldest civilization in the world.

The A$5 banknote is the only Australian banknote to carry the image of the Queen. Australian coins are mandated to carry the image of the British monarch and new coins will have the effigy of King Charles.

King Charles is the head of state in Australia, New Zealand and 12 other Commonwealth realms outside the United Kingdom, although the role is largely ceremonial. — Reuters

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