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ACT to get its own Coat of Arms, but what will it look like?

By Lachlan Roberts 23 February 2019 111
Canberra Coat of Arms

The City of Canberra’s coat of arms designed by C. R. Wylie in 1928. File photo.

Now that the battle between the Eastern Bettong and the Southern Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby for the title of ACT’s new mammal emblem has been fought and won, the ACT Government has turned its attention to the ACT’s Coat of Arms – or lack thereof.

It was only during the search for the ACT’s mammal emblem that it was discovered that the nation’s capital familiar black and white swan coat of arms actually represents the City of Canberra instead of the whole territory.

The Standing Committee on Environment and Transport, led by Suzanne Orr, has been charged with looking into creating a separate Coat of Arms for the ACT and what rules and protocols apply when designing one.

Because it happens so infrequently, Ms Orr said there is no clear and established process for adopting a jurisdictional coat of arms in Australia.

“We had a number of submitters write in and say that while we are looking at the mammal emblem we should look into the ACT Coat of Arms and perhaps consider a redesign of our flag as well,” Ms Orr said.

“The last state or territory to adopt a Coat of Arms was in 1978 and that was the Northern Territory so there is not a lot of recent guidance to say what we can and can’t do. So we have written to the Royal College of Arms in the UK to receive some guidelines.”

A Coat of Arms is a tradition which can be traced back to medieval times, originally portrayed as a unique design on the shield of a knight, handed down to his descendants. Nearly all Coat of Arms feature creatures, people or even plants who hold up a shield, which is sometimes referred to as the escutcheon.

The City of Canberra’s coat of arms was designed by C. R. Wylie in 1928, with a black and white swan, castle, two crowns and the phrase ‘For the Queen, the law and the people’.

The ACT is the only state or territory in Australia without a Coat of Arms, with no clear explanation as to why we have been left behind.

“The Committee is trying to unravel the mystery why the ACT does not have one. We went to an exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery to look at the flag and they had a bit of history on the Coat of Arms,” Ms Orr said.

“It was put to us that when the ACT became self-government, they had a lot of things to do and a Coat of Arms did not make the to-do list at the time. That is the best explanation that we have received so far.”

Once the Committee figures out the parameters to adopt or design a new Coat of Arms, they will look at the symbols to include on the Arms and which “supporters” to hold up our shield.

“We have the rock-wallaby as our mammal emblem, we have the gang-gang cockatoo as our bird emblem and the Blue Bird which is our floral emblem,” Ms Orr said. “So we have quite a few emblems which could become part of the Coat of Arms.”

The Committee will report back to the Legislative Assembly mid-year and the Committee will invite community submissions in the coming months.

For further information, or to make a submission, please contact the Committee Secretary on (02) 6205 0124 or by email


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94 Responses to
ACT to get its own Coat of Arms, but what will it look like?
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2:41 pm 27 Feb 19

I have no idea what the final thing will look like. I can only imagine, however, the agony of spending time on any one of the manifold inter-departmental or community consultative committees that must have commenced meeting shortly after the war in order to have a reasonable chance of achieving an outcome before the end of this century.

g210 1:07 pm 27 Feb 19

Hammer & Sickle on one side, a Red Rose on the other and a derelict tall building in the middle.

12:31 pm 27 Feb 19

Replace the two.swans with a duck and a goose. To remind them what they used to have and what they have now...

As there is no difference in the Sovereignty of the ACT and of Canberra as the City does not have a separate Mayor or council from the Territory’s legislature, there is no need to essentially double up on the Coat of Arms, these Arms represent the Sovereign Powers of the Govt. and as there is only one (for now….) there is no need to spend the money to get another.

John Moulis 6:02 am 27 Feb 19

Why don’t they just proclaim the Canberra City coat of arms the ACT one as well? In any case, the present coat of arms is also on the ACT flag so that is already taken care of.

12:38 am 27 Feb 19

Let's drag the chain on this until Barr is out of office.

10:46 pm 26 Feb 19

A magpie on the left and cockatoo on the right....

Telecom tower I think still called that lol ...we don’t have castles unless the George in Nicholls is a pub castle lol.

1:31 pm 26 Feb 19

Swooping magpies

1:29 pm 26 Feb 19

How do you represent "triple your rates", oodles of vacant commercial premises and unaffordable housing in picture form?

russianafroman 12:59 pm 25 Feb 19

Misplaced priorities. Our current Coat of Arms is fine. It was designed in 1924; it has history. For what reason is the ACT government throwing it away? Is it because it has a castle in it? Who cares. It looks cool. This is a vanity project in part of the politicians trying to implement it. Pathetic.

Maelinar 11:23 am 25 Feb 19

I’d like to see a franger and a rocket, to represent porn and fireworks both of which were a long standing tradition in Canberra.

Reading through other comments, maybe the next 2 symbols could be a train and a magpie, both for obvious reasons, perhaps we should have a mystery triangle hidden inside the coat of arms as well to represent the parliamentary triangle.

Before the readers get high and mighty, Melbourne’s coat of arms has a whale on it to represent their whaling history, my above post represents pretty much Canberra’s history.

8:46 pm 24 Feb 19

Why is there a need for the ACT to have a Coat of Arms?

HiddenDragon 6:25 pm 24 Feb 19

The fauna should be a magpie and a possum – those two would strike a chord with many Canberrans, and quite a few visitors to the ACT. With all due respect to the 1928 effort, and to the fact that the British monarch is still Australia’s head of state, perhaps we could get away with a bit of republicanising – no crown, and no reference to the British monarch. We seem to manage without a Governor/Administrator, so maybe just some fauna and flora, and a few nice words about the People etc.

10:07 am 24 Feb 19

Should be a mob of turkeys running around aimlessly

9:56 am 24 Feb 19

Agreed Jay Kay!

8:28 am 24 Feb 19

This coat of arms is racist! It represents the 17th Century stereotypes of colouris. The black swan is meant to represent Aboriginal Australians. The white swan, European Australians. Everything about it is offensive to me.

8:17 am 24 Feb 19

A latte and a heater #canberralife

7:52 am 24 Feb 19

Who cares! Don't need it.

7:32 am 24 Feb 19

Priorities?! How about doing something about our rundown dirty city? It's been a week since the multicultural festival and the grease still hasn't been cleaned up!

7:17 am 24 Feb 19

and all the money it is going to cost to replace all the coat of arms in place now..

I am not related...

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