Advance Australia

Courtesy Stephen Basdeo, some “Victorian tat” produced in celebration of the golden jubilee in 1887:

Courtesy Stephen Basdeo.

I love the economic statistics and time zone chart. I was curious about the arms of “Australasia.”

Obviously there was no colony or dominion of “Australasia,” and I had never seen these arms before. They appear to consist of a ship, a sheep, a crossed shovel and pickaxe, and a wheat sheaf – presumably symbols representing major Australian industries – all between the arms of a cross charged with the five stars of the Southern Cross constellation. What exactly do they represent?

A little googling reveals that they are the “Advance Australia” arms, so called from the motto beneath the shield. They were never official, and thus exist in a number of variations. (As you can see, this one has the sheep in first quarter and the ship in the second, and an anchor in place of the pickaxe.) Apparently they were used by certain Australians in the late nineteenth century to express a desire for Australian union – recall that in 1887 Australia consisted of six separate colonies: Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.

Some others:

Australian federation did take place in 1901. Presumably the “Advance Australia” arms remained the de facto arms of the new Commonwealth, before an official grant was made in 1908. 


As you can see, the new grant recycled the motto, but the shield was different: it

had a white background, with a red cross of Saint George, blue lines outside the cross, and a blue border containing six inescutcheons featuring a red chevron on white, representing the six states.


The Scottish Patriotic Association was vocally opposed to the shield’s design, noting that it should display the Union Jack to represent British and Irish settlers. 

This activism was successful, and in 1912 Australia got a new grant which it continues to use to this day.


Australia’s six states are more explicitly represented here. Clockwise from the top left, they are: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia. 


Although here is the full coat of arms of New South Wales, granted in 1906 and apparently inspired by the “Advance Australia” arms.