10 June 2021

Icons of Canberra flagged for next stage of ACT coat of arms

| Michael Weaver
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The Belconnen Owl statue

Could a local landmark like the Belconnen Owl be a contender for the ACT coat of arms? Photo: File.

Canberra landmarks could be considered for the ACT coat of arms by a community reference panel, with the design to be decided by the public before the end of 2021.

The eight-person community reference panel includes Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Roslyn Brown and United Ngunnawal Youth Council member Bradley Mapiva-Brown, with members of the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra, Professor Janette Lindesay and Dr Joe Johnson.

Vexillology expert Edwin Crump and ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences’ Dr Pia van Gelder are also on the panel, with Canberra citizens Steven Squires, Tang Ben Chang and Terry Fewtrell.

Mr Fewtrell said there is a good level of interest from people wanting to be involved in the next stage of developing the ACT coat of arms after the ACT Government flagged the need for it, in addition to the suite of emblems and insignia used to promote and celebrate the ACT.

This already includes a separate coat of arms of the City of Canberra and other forms of insignia.

The coat of arms of the City of Canberra, which features a black swan and a white swan, was granted by the College of Arms in London in 1928. It was requested by the Department of Defence to be used on the then newly commissioned ship, HMAS Canberra. However, it is not considered a true representation of Canberra’s identity.

The Coat of Arms of the City of Canberra

The coat of arms of the City of Canberra. Image: File.

Mr Fewtrell said the coat of arms of the City of Canberra is outdated and a more modern coat of arms could include references to ACT icons that better represent Canberrans’ connection to where they live.

“The population of Canberra is now more than 400,000 people who have a far more significant sense of our identity and what we stand for,” he said.

“There has also been an enormous amount of scholarship, both historical and archaeological, about the significance of Aboriginal people in the land here.

“Those two points alone mean it is thoroughly appropriate to think about how we express ourselves in a coat of arms.

“There’s never been a better time to do it and the cost of it all when we look back in 100 years will be bugger all.”

READ ALSO Reconciliation Day holiday celebrated in sunshine at the Arboretum

Students from the University of Canberra will be involved in the next stage of the process that involves designing a number of concepts that will be presented to the community reference panel for consideration.

A public vote to select the ACT coat of arms will then take place before the new design is announced later this year. A redesign of the ACT flag will also be considered following the process.

Mr Fewtrell said while some aspects of heraldry on the new coat of arms would be appropriate, he hopes the design will represent Indigenous heritage rather than any links to the Commonwealth.

“We’ve been saying all along the design must speak to, and of, the people of Canberra and their place,” he said. “My personal view is that the design should largely be informed by Aboriginal concepts and the landscape here.

“It will certainly be very interesting to see what the students come up with as their initial design concepts.”

You can follow the progress of the ACT coat of arms on the ACT Government’s Your Say website.

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Capital Retro3:30 pm 09 Jun 21

You’re right Eric, it suits the Territory perfectly although in the interests of observing gender neutrality it should say “For The Monarch”……….

Indeed, in the very short term there will be a king again so it would be killing two birds with one mace.

The ACT coat of arms should contain the emblems of Canberra – Rock wallaby, gang gang Cockatoo and Royal Bluebell on a background of Australian Parliament House.

Why even bother wasting the time and money to change it? Who really cares?
Leaving an inoffensive coat of arms that nobody really cares about costs nothing.
Changing it wastes literally millions of dollars in replacing it on Government buildings and stationary. And for what? Surely we have better things to spend that money on.

An owl that look like a penis, how appropriate.

Capital Retro8:34 am 08 Jun 21

The $400K owl that was “erected” by sculptor Bruce Armstrong gets a mention in Serbia where there was a similar reaction to ours.


HiddenDragon8:31 pm 06 Jun 21

All very worthy, no doubt, but in essence it sounds as if we’ll be swapping from one side of the old $1 note to the other.

Capital Retro6:40 pm 06 Jun 21

Black Swans Matter?

It might be a good idea if the Indigenous side of it could be emphasised. And please, no pompous slogans such as the current one. I had never read it closely before, but that stuff about serving the law and the Queen? Really, is that the best they could do way back then? The white swan needs to go as well. Why is it there? Awful cultural cringe stuff.

We also need to avoid silly pop art such as the owl or the Skywhale, symbols of that unfortunate phase of starry eyed idealism we were passing through at the turn-of-the-century.

ChrisinTurner1:14 pm 06 Jun 21

I was thinking Lake Burley Griffin but now it is planned to be filled in for apartments it seems shortsighted to have it listed.

Stephen Saunders7:44 am 06 Jun 21

Thanks for update, Michael. I reckon this community can improve on the retro queen and castle, unless Morrison passes a special law to stop us. Maestro, cue outrage, from Capital and Chewy.

Capital Retro7:22 pm 06 Jun 21

Which retro queen are you referring to, Stephen?

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