Coat of arms

The present coat of arms was granted by King George V in 1912. It consists of a shield depicting the badges of the six Australian states, enclosed by an ermine border. The shield is a symbol for the federation of the states, which took place in 1901.
The Australian coat of arms is commonly but incorrectly referred to as the ‘Commonwealth Crest’. Strictly speaking, the crest is the device above the shield and helmet on a coat of arms. The Australian crest is a seven-pointed gold star on a blue and gold wreath. Six of the points represent each of the states of the Commonwealth; the seventh point represents Australia’s territories.
The supporters are native Australian animals: the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) and the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). It is thought the kangaroo and emu were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forward, reflecting a common belief that neither animal can move backwards easily.
The first official coat of arms of Australia was granted by a Royal Warrant of King Edward VII in 1908. This coat of arms was used on some Australian coins even after it was superseded in 1912, and last appeared on the sixpenny piece in 1966.
Usually the arms is depicted on a background of sprays of golden wattle with a scroll beneath it containing the word ‘Australia’. The wattle and scroll, however, are not part of the armorial design and are not mentioned in the Royal Warrant.
The Australian Government uses the coat of arms to authenticate documents and for other official purposes. Its uses range from embellishing the Australian passport to forming part of all Australian government departmental insignias. The use of the coat of arms by private citizens or organisations is rarely permitted by the Australian Government, and doing so would contravene laws relating to misrepresentation, forgery or trademark infringement.
Australia has never adopted any official motto or faunal emblem. By popular tradition, however, the kangaroo and emu are widely accepted as such. The golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was proclaimed the official national floral emblem in August 1988.
For many years, the motto ‘Advance Australia’ appeared on unofficial coats of arms, even before the federation of the states in 1901. It was included in the 1908 arms, and was popularly accepted in association with the 19th century song ‘Advance Australia Fair’. A revised version of this song officially became Australia’s national anthem in 1984 (see fact sheet on the Australian national anthem). On that same day, Australia also officially adopted green and gold as its national colours. Until then, the nation had no official national colours, although the use of green and gold by Australia’s international sporting teams had become a tradition and had been associated with its Olympic teams since the 1920s.
The Australian coat of arms consists of the badges of the six states of the Commonwealth arranged on a shield in two rows of three columns:
  • New South Wales—Golden lion passant (right to left) on a red St George’s Cross on a silver background (usually depicted white), with an eight-pointed star on each extremity of the cross.
  • Victoria—White Southern Cross (one star of eight points, two of seven points, one of six points and one of five points), beneath an Imperial Crown, on a blue background.
  • Queensland—light blue Maltese cross with an Imperial Crown at its centre, on a white background.
  • South Australia—the white-backed magpie, erect, wings outstretched, on a yellow background.
  • Western Australia—Black swan swimming, left to right, on a yellow background.
  • Tasmania—Red lion passant (right to left) on a white background.