Is it time to create a ‘modern’ ACT coat of arms?

Michael Weaver 1 March 2021 15
Brindabella Ranges

Do you think the Brindabella Ranges could be incorporated into the ACT’s coat of arms? Photo: Terry Cunningham.

Could the Brindabella Ranges be incorporated into the ACT’s coat of arms, or perhaps a gang-gang cockatoo, the royal bluebell flower or a southern brush-tailed rock-wallaby?

While the latter three icons are already emblazoned as emblems of the ACT, there are further suggestions a community reference panel will consider as part of a consultation process to bring the ACT into line with all states and territories to have its own coat of arms.

The debate over an ACT coat of arms has been advocated for since the beginning of the century when the ACT Australian Republican Movement expressed a need for discussion on the symbolism of a Coat of Arms.

The city of Canberra has a coat of arms, which was requested by the Department of Defence to be used on the then newly commissioned ship, HMAS Canberra. Designed and drawn by C R Wylie, the Canberra coat of arms, featuring a black swan and a white swan, was granted by the College of Arms in London on 7 November 1928.

City of Canberra Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of the city of Canberra.

Terry Fewtrell and a group of about 20 ACT citizens for meaningful civic symbols say the heraldry in the Canberra City coat of arms is not reflective of the ACT and now is the time to reignite debate on the issue.

Further discussion was to occur in January last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it aside. The ACT Government has flagged a vote on the issue later this year.

“Our view is that an ACT coat of arms must speak to, and of, the people and place here,” Mr Fewtrell told Region Media.

“We’re saying the symbol must say something about the place we live in and the community that we are.

“We would also expect there be some kind of significant expression of the Indigenous presence that has been in the land here for 60,000 years or more.”


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Mr Fewtrell said the rules of heraldry are very strict, usually requiring approval by the College of Arms in London.

“You need to recognise that the ACT community voted yes in the Republican referendum in 1999 and we were the only jurisdiction in the country to support it in a majority.

“People often ask where you would see the coat of arms, and we already see the Canberra one on our garbage bins of all places, and I think we can do better than that.”

He said the symbolism of an ACT coat of arms would help engender a wider understanding of what the ACT means to the community.

“We tend to undervalue the importance of symbols and it’s very important that our symbols have meaning to us and express something to us,” Mr Fewtrell said.

“The ACT Government has been bold enough to say this is something we should fix, so here’s an opportunity for the community to have an input into the process and get a good outcome.”

An ACT Government spokesperson said the community reference group will seek suggestions from a range of people and will work with students from the University of Canberra’s Arts and Design faculty to design prototypes.

“We’re looking for people with experience in heraldry, Ngunnawal culture and history, people with design backgrounds and expertise relating to a coat of arms/insignias. We are also looking for interested and passionate Canberrans,” the spokesperson said.

ACT Flag

The ACT Flag, including the coat of arms. Image: Supplied.

A redesign of the ACT Flag will also be considered following the process.

“It is important to note that a new ACT Flag does not need to carry the coat of arms and as the City of Canberra coat of arms will maintain its status, changes to the ACT Flag are not necessary immediately.

“This process offers the ACT Government the opportunity to start gauging interest in a redesigned ACT Flag,” the ACT Government spokesperson said

If Canberrans would like to be involved, they should submit an expression of interest for the Territory Coat of Arms Reference Group or sign up to the YourSay Conversations page. Expression of interest to join the panel close on 1 March.


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15 Responses to Is it time to create a ‘modern’ ACT coat of arms?
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rogerson rogerson 10:31 am 05 Mar 21

We should also change our official language, because English is so colonial and doesn’t represent modern Australia. Our chief minister no longer ministers to anyone, so let’s rename him “Grand galah”. Just because someone says “let’s change…” it doesn’t mean that RiotAct need further the cause.

Tjilpi1 Tjilpi1 12:38 am 28 Feb 21

Is it April 1 already?

Ol L Ol L 9:49 am 26 Feb 21

Brindabella s? Would look like nothing recognisable as there hardly the Himalayas

rationalobserver rationalobserver 1:00 pm 25 Feb 21

What if we just get rid of the bird that is white?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:25 am 25 Feb 21

“…. An emblem showcasing medieval queens, crowns, and castles, doesn’t represent 21st century Canberra…”

We have all three of the above.

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 5:39 am 25 Feb 21

Symbols do matter. The British monarch is the white hereditary chief of the Church of England. An emblem showcasing medieval queens, crowns, and castles, doesn’t represent 21st century Canberra.

In a small jurisdiction with multi-member electorates, sometimes it is just possible to creep forward, by slow degrees. I’m confident that ACT will ditch its white “Rule Britannia” coat of arms, decades before Australia finally updates its flag, head of state, and national day.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:48 pm 24 Feb 21

“Could the Brindabella Ranges be incorporated into the ACT’s coat of arms,…”

An image which combined the mountains and the lake – the old and the new, the original and the man-made would give a nod to the national role of Canberra, but without succumbing to the cliche of incorporating imagery of Parliament House.

Following the droll suggestions already offered, if we’re going to stick to the olde worlde style of heraldry, a bar sinister might need to be contemplated…..

dukethunder dukethunder 7:21 pm 24 Feb 21

“Terry Fewtrell and a group of about 20 ACT citizens”

So if I get about 21 bored retirees do I get to run this review no one wants?

I’ve already picked the winner, pre-public consultation as per ACT government requirements.

So start with the hammer and sickle upper left quadrant. Obviously. The crest is Barr and Rattenbury seperated by a burning pile of money. I’m open to input on whether they should be burning the Australian flag or just stomping on it.

Acton Acton 3:50 pm 24 Feb 21

For the crest, upon a rainbow wreath, a skywhale rampant, holding in dexter fin a tram, depicting rising rates.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:53 pm 24 Feb 21

It should have a rainbow to celebrate our lifestyle surmounted by the three gold balls of a pawnbroker to highlight our financial position.

The castle on the current coat of arms could be replaced by a pop-up container village.

Maybe the swans could be replaced by an Ibis and an Indian Myna raiding a garbage bin.

chewy14 chewy14 12:51 pm 24 Feb 21

Knowing the way this government does symbolism, we will end up with a new coat of arms made up of a rainbow roundabout, topped with an abstract phallic symbol and surrounded by tokenistic indigenous artwork.

    MERC600 MERC600 3:30 pm 25 Feb 21

    Good ones Chewy , will need room for a weed to be shown growing in front of some graffiti.

jwinston jwinston 11:43 am 24 Feb 21

So many more important things to spend money on – health, education and roads come to mind.

keek keek 11:27 am 24 Feb 21

What a waste of time and money.

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