As the ACT begins its second century, and the Republic is becoming the talk of the town, the ACT Government has a golden opportunity to provide a fitting symbol for Canberra’s next century as a city.
I am referring to the Canberra Coat of Arms (pictured below), whose symbols no longer reflect the values and ideals of the majority of the ACT population. It is time for the ACT Government to initiate a process of public engagement for the design of an ACT Coat of Arms, in the context of Canberra defining itself for its next century.
Replacing the Canberran Coat of Arms with an ACT Coat of Arms would correct an historical anomaly that has meant the ACT is the only major jurisdiction in the Commonwealth that does not have a coat of arms. Members of the ACT’s heraldry society are open to the idea of an ACT Coat of Arms, having the view that the ACT Government is misusing the Canberran Coat of Arms to represent the entire territory.
And given that the ACT voted strongly in favour of a republic in the 1999 Republic Referendum, having pro-monarchy symbols on the Canberran Coat of Arms flies in the face of the values and ideas of the majority in the ACT, who deserve better than the implied loyalty to the British Monarchy in the crowns and motto.
Does the motto “For the Queen, the Law, and the People”, or any of the other monarchist symbols for that matter, really represent the ideas and aspirations of ACT residents today? I would say that it does not.
The ACT Government has implicitly acknowledged this, using the “CBR” brand more and more, rather than the coat of arms itself. This is in effect saying that the Coat of Arms is an inadequate symbol for the territory.
An ACT Coat of Arms would provide more relevant and meaningful symbolism for the ACT, and could incorporate well-loved ACT icons as in the example pictured at the start of this article. These include the Gang-gang Cockatoo, the Royal Bluebell, Parliament House, and the Brindabella Mountains. If done correctly, it would become a timeless symbol of the ACT, and put our unique culture and environment at the forefront of our symbols.
This has been done before in Australia, as the South Australian government adopted a more culturally meaningful coat of arms in 1984, replacing one created in 1936. The Northern Territory also has an impressive coat of arms, which uses indigenous themes and incorporates every territory emblem (see below).
To this end, with the co-operation of other supporters, I have created a Legislative Assembly e-Petition, to help effect change from the Assembly on this issue. If you support this opportunity to create a great cultural icon, please sign the e-Petition.
Steven Squires is Deputy Convenor, ACT Branch, Australian Republican Movement.