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.
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“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.