Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A couple of great things about the Commonwealth of Australia's coat of arms is that it features native flora and fauna (the former unofficial to the authorised design, the latter integral) and secondly that the kangaroo and emu are both edible. (Try finding a unicorn, and you really, really don't want to try lion or eagle...)

Australian passports. The left hand example, issued in 2001, has differently shaped arms than the 2011 example on the right. The logo below the word 'Passport' actually refers to the fact the document has an electronic chip, and isn't a monochrome version of the Aboriginal flag, although exactly the same layout. The smaller arms on the 2011 issued wallet at the top (back) is different again.

Again the contrasts between Canada and Australia are intriguing in this area, as Canada's arms are essentially a British design with some Canadian additions, while Australia's is so appropriate it actually doesn't use traditional heraldic beasts.

When the Australian arms were approved in 1912, in Parliament, MP William Kelly said:
"The emu and kangaroo are so built that they hardly fit into the heraldic atmosphere, and I think we make ourselves ridiculous when we endeavour to carry on the traditions of the Old World with some of the wild creations of our Australian fauna."
I doubt anyone in Australia would suggest more traditional (and therefore non-native) heraldic animals would be a better alternative nowadays. However, making a full size example of the arms smacks somewhat of the chimps' tea party, but didn't stop Museum Victoria:

In contrast of course, Australia's flag, so vehemently defended by certain conservatives is 25% someone else's anyway, while Canada opted for its own flag in 1965. The contrasts and similarities are worth, I think, noting. Australia's flag can be easily mistaken for any of about a dozen similar designs, and when folded or draped, for that of the United Kingdom. But no-one would mistake the coat of arms as belonging to any other country than Australia. Conversely Canada's coat of arms is distinctive only in its details (maple leaves etc.) while the Canadian flag gets 100% recognition in tests.

Heraldry, eh?


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