Guidelines on the Use of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Introduction

The Commonwealth Coat of Arms is the pre-eminent symbol of the power and authority of the Commonwealth Government. The Arms identify the Commonwealth and wherever seen indicate that the Commonwealth's authority is being exercised. Exceptions to the exclusive use of the Arms are considered on a case by case basis within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Approvals have been given to the placement of the Coat of Arms on the team apparel of representatively selected Australian teams competing against teams from other nations and in educational media such as encyclopaedia and text books where the intention is to explain the meaning and purpose of the Arms .

The Coat of Arms may not be used for any purpose other than that of the Commonwealth without prior written consent.

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Use Within the Commonwealth

Type of Arms

There are nine accepted versions of the 1912 Arms in two styles, known as the Conventional Arms and the Stylised Arms. Any variation may be used to suit the required purpose.

Graphic quality images are available through the Awards and Culture Branch in many popular formats.

The Arms may be used by portfolio departments, statutory and non-statutory authorities, by the Parliament and its departments and by Commonwealth courts and tribunals. Departments and authorities that have developed special logos may use those in place of the Arms or in conjunction with the Arms. The Arms may not be placed on the same document more than once.

The Arms may not to be used by Commonwealth owned or controlled trading authorities for the purposes of competing in the marketplace.

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Appropriate Use of the Arms

The Arms may be used on departmental and authority letterhead and envelopes, on formal publications, documents and in web sites, on the identification cards of Commonwealth officials and may be used to identify property owned by the Commonwealth. The use of the Arms is not mandatory.

Location and Position on Official Documents and Publications and Building Facades

  • Logos, text or illustration may not be placed above the Arms.
  • In keeping with the tradition for the use of Arms, the Arms should be placed in the position of prominence on a page. The position of prominence is at the top left of a page, followed in importance by the top middle and then the top right.
  • The Arms should appear only once in a document.
  • For brochures and transitory communications such as television and print advertisements, the Arms may be placed elsewhere in the document as appropriate, provided the dignity of the Arms is maintained and they are not reproduced in a size which renders the Arms unrecognisable.
  • The Arms may be placed in a prominent position on the facades of buildings occupied by departments or agencies provided the dignity of the Arms is not compromised by any adjacent signs or features.
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Documents not Requiring the Arms

  • Stationery, forms and printed matter for use within departments or agencies need not carry the Arms.
  • Documents and stationery of Commonwealth trading enterprises must not use the Arms on material used when functioning in the market place.
  • Documents or promotional material co-authored jointly by the Commonwealth with another state or territory government need not carry the Arms. However with agreement of all governments in the joint project, the Arms of all participants may be displayed in the documents.
  • Documents intended for a foreign audience presenting a whole of Australia view need not use the Coat of Arms.
  • Private persons acting as the agents of the Commonwealth may only use the Arms if authorised to do so.
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Size and Colour

  • The Arms should not be reproduced in sizes less than 20mm across.
  • The Conventional Arms (1912 design) may be reproduced in full colour or in monochrome, including the metallic colours used on invitations.
  • The Stylised Arms should not be reproduced in full colour. This design lends itself to reproduction in monochrome including metal coloured inks used on formal stationery.

Use of the Arms in Electronic Media

The Arms should be part of Commonwealth electronic documents to indicate the authority for issue and the source of the information. The Arms should be prominently located and reproduced accurately and in a size that enables it to be clearly recognized. Electronic media published by or on behalf of the Commonwealth should carry an image of the Arms to indicate the authority and source of the information. The guidelines for positioning the Arms in the place of prominence apply to electronic documents such as web pages.

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Use of the Arms with the National Flag

The national flag and the Arms may be used together with the position of prominence taken by the Arms.

Use of the Arms With a Departmental Logo

Where the Arms is used in conjunction with a departmental logo, the Arms would take the position of prominence either above or to the left of the logo and of equal size. If the Arms or logo is reproduced in colour, the other must be similarly reproduced.

Use on Commonwealth Uniforms

The Arms may be used on the uniforms of members of the Australian Defence Force and other Commonwealth agencies. The name of the agency should appear under the Arms. The Arms may be on embroidered directly on the uniform or on patches sewn to the cloth or in the form of metal badges.

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Use on or in Buildings

The Arms may be displayed on the external facades of buildings occupied by Commonwealth departments and agencies whether owned or leased. The Arms may also be displayed indoors. Where a building incorporates the Coat of Arms on its façade and forms an integral part of the building the Arms can be retained on vacating the building. Similarly pre-existing Arms forming part of the fabric of a building can be retained on occupancy.

Use on Currency and Coinage

The Arms may be used on Australian currency and coinage.

Use on the Insignia of Australian honours

The Arms may be used as a design element on the insignia of Australian honours

For assistance contact the National Symbols Officer, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (02) 6271 5601, facsimile (02) 6271 5662, email: nationalsymbols@pmc.gov.au.

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1. The Commonwealth Coat of Arms

The grant of arms to individuals, organisations, towns and States has its origins as a mark of royal favour dating back to the Middle Ages. Arms consist of objects arranged to distinguish the possessor by their particular kind, order and association. The complex and stylised art of arranging arms in systematic ways to express identity is known as heraldry and can be traced back to the early Crusades.

The shield is the central feature of a grant of arms. It contains certain distinguishing marks which have had a long and close association with heraldry. The term 'coat of arms' refers to the custom in the 11th to 15th centuries of displaying the arms on a tunic or coat worn over armour. The crest, placed originally on the helmet of a knight to identify him in battle, was attached beneath a wreath originally of twisted silk in two colours. These colours have since been regarded as the livery colours of the arms. Both the crest and the supporters, which are on either side of the shield, are accessories to the arms.

It is proper that an authority performing the duties of government should bear the dignities and traditional rights of its office; including the right to bear symbols of its honour and authority. The Commonwealth Coat of Arms was granted by the Sovereign and fulfils these traditional purposes. It is an emblem signifying the national unity of Australia and serves as a sign of identity and authority.

1908 Arms

The first official Coat of Arms granted to the Commonwealth of Australia was made by King Edward VII in a Royal Warrant of 7 May 1908

The first official Coat of Arms granted
to the Commonwealth of Australia
was made by King Edward VII in
a Royal Warrant of 7 May 1908

The first official Coat of Arms granted to the Commonwealth of Australia was made by King Edward VII in a Royal Warrant of 7 May 1908. The Arms were composed of a simple shield of white and blue enclosing a cross of Saint George on which there were five six-pointed white stars, around the outside of which were six small escutcheons, i.e., small shields. The shield was supported by a kangaroo and an emu standing on a grassy mound. Above the shield was the crest containing the seven-pointed gold star of Federation on a wreath of white and blue. The motto 'Advance Australia' was inscribed at the base.

1912 Arms

1912 Commonwealth Coat of Arms

1912 Commonwealth Coat of Arms

The absence of specific references to the States in the shield in the 1908 Arms led to a number of alterations approved on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Government by King George V in a Royal Warrant of 19 September 1912. The new design included a shield with six parts each containing a representation of the badge of a State. The positions and attitudes of the supporters were also changed. The colours of the wreath of the crest were altered to gold and blue. These are the 'livery' colours of the Arms.

The new Arms were accompanied by small branches of wattle, ornamental rests for the supporters, and a scroll with the word 'Australia' - none of which are actually mentioned in the 1912 Royal Warrant.

The Coat of Arms is used by the Commonwealth to identify its authority and property. The Arms belong to the Commonwealth and, in general, are for official use only.

Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Commonwealth Coat of Arms
(conventional)

Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Commonwealth Coat of Arms
(stylised)


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2. Use of the Arms

The Arms must always be reproduced correctly and where possible in colour. However, if colour is not appropriate the Arms may be reproduced in conventional or stylised form as a line drawing, e.g. in black and white, silver, gold or as a mould or bas-relief.

Use of the Arms by private persons and organisations is seldom permitted since it is contrary to their essential meaning, may constitute a possible debasement of the Arms and may give rise to indiscriminate use. The association of the Arms with a trade, business, calling or profession is not normally permitted. Sporting and competitive representatives sponsored by their national controlling body may receive permission to wear the Coat of Arms on their uniforms, with the name and date of the event shown immediately beneath the Arms, when competing in officially recognised international events. Private persons and organisations may display the Arms as a decorative feature on particular national occasions, e.g. Coronations, Royal Visits, and Jubilee celebrations, provided it is not a permanent feature. Use of the Arms may be permitted on permanent souvenirs of a particular event, e.g. the Royal Visit of 1988. Publishers of encyclopaedia and reference, educational and heraldry books may be granted permission in certain circumstances.

In no circumstances should the Coat of Arms be used by private persons and organisations without prior approval of the appropriate Commonwealth authorities. Top

3. Significance of the Coat of Arms

The design of the 1912 Coat of Arms is of special significance, and each element, for example the colours, crest, wreath and border, has a special significance.

The Coat of Arms consists of a shield composed of 'quarters' representing the six States of the Commonwealth enclosed by an ermine border. The quarters provide a place for each of the States on the shield. Devices representing the six States are arranged in two rows on the shield. From left to right in the top row are the devices of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland (Quarters 1, 2 and 3) and in the bottom row are the devices of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania (Quarters 4, 5 and 6). The ermine border signifies the federation of the States into the Commonwealth.

The Crest of the Arms is a seven-pointed gold star symbolic of national unity on a gold and blue wreath, which is a traditional element represented as a twisted ribbon or Torse of the two alternate colours gold and blue. A star of six points was originally chosen to represent the six States but a seventh point was added to represent the territories of the Commonwealth before the design was finalised. This seven-pointed star is also used on the Australian National Flag and is termed the Commonwealth Star.

The supporters, the kangaroo and the emu, are two typical Australian creatures which were also included in the 1908 Arms. Both are indigenous to Australia and are regarded as suitable for heraldry, design and reproduction uses. Each in turn has appeared at various times on postage stamps. Although the Royal Warrant did not indicate a species of kangaroo, that depicted on the original painting is assumed to be the Red Kangaroo (Megaleia rufa) which is the widest distributed species on the continent. The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and the kangaroo, as typical Australian fauna, further identify the Arms as being exclusively Australian.

Usually the Arms are depicted with branches of wattle tied with ribbon, emblematic of Australia, and with a scroll having the word 'Australia' at the base. However, the wattle, the scroll and the brackets upon which the supporters rest do not constitute part of the complete Armorial Achievement and are not mentioned in the Royal Warrant. Top

4. Description of the Coat of Arms

The Blazon

Blazoning is the art of describing in words a coat of arms in heraldic terms so that it can be reproduced accurately in any part of the world. It allows for artistic licence in the way an heraldic painter illustrates the items described. The broad meaning of the blazon, or official description of the Arms, is as follows:

First Quarter (representing New South Wales)

Coat of Arms Blazon - First Quarter (representing New South Wales)

Coat of Arms Blazon - First Quarter (representing New South Wales)

Background silver, featuring the Cross of St George containing an heraldic gold lion, walking to the wearer's right (viewer's left), three paws on the ground, the right forepaw being raised, the head turned so as to face the spectator and the tail curved over the back, and on each arm of the cross an eight-pointed gold star.

Second Quarter (representing Victoria)

Background blue, containing five stars, one of eight points, two of seven points, one of six points and one of five points (the constellation of the Southern Cross) with an Imperial Crown in normal colours placed above the first star.

Coat of Arms Blazon - Second Quarter (representing Victoria)

Coat of Arms Blazon - Second Quarter (representing Victoria)

Third Quarter (representing Queensland)

Background silver, containing a blue Maltese Cross surmounted by an Imperial Crown in normal colours.

Coat of Arms Blazon - Third Quarter (representing Queensland)

Coat of Arms Blazon - Third Quarter (representing Queensland)

Fourth Quarter (representing South Australia)

Background gold, containing an Australian Piping Shrike perched on a twisted band of green and red (the bird has its back to the viewer).

Coat of Arms Blazon - Fifth Quarter (representing Western Australia)

Coat of Arms Blazon - Fourth Quarter (representing South Australia)

Fifth Quarter (representing Western Australia)

Background gold featuring a black swan swimming to the wearer's left (viewer's right).

Coat of Arms Blazon - Fourth Quarter (representing South Australia)

Coat of Arms Blazon - Fifth Quarter (representing Western Australia)

Sixth Quarter (representing Tasmania)

Background silver, featuring a red lion walking to the wearer's right (viewer's left) three paws on the ground, the right forepaw being raised, the head looking forward and the tail curved over the back.

Coat of Arms Blazon - Sixth Quarter (representing Tasmania)

Coat of Arms Blazon - Sixth Quarter (representing Tasmania)

5. Additional Information

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Last Updated: 20 October 2004