Madonna King: Why is the Queen a notable exception? Do we get rid of her at all?

Is King Charles the best option for our $5 note, asks Madonna King.

Is King Charles the best option for our $5 note, asks Madonna King. Photo: TND

Here’s a quick end-of-week family quiz.

  1. Queen Elizabeth II is on one side of the $5 note. Who or what is on the other side?
  2. Who is Mary Reibey and what banknote does she appear on?
  3. What two portraits adorn the $100 note?
  4. Who is David Unaipon?
  5. Who was the first female member of an Australian Parliament?

(Answers at bottom of story)

If you got 100 per cent, you probably have a right to hold court around the water cooler at work, with a view on who should knock the Queen off the $5 note.

But if you didn’t, is it really that important? And should the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II be removed?

Based on the public discussion, she’s being wiped from our currency because she died. So the Australian head of state for 70 years isn’t fit for a fiver, but every other note boasts the profile of someone else who is deceased?

And how is it that she only made the $5 note, and not the $50, which boasts David Unaipon and Edith Cowan? Or the $100 note that carries the portraits of Sir John Monash and Dame Nellie Melba?

Not that many of us have seen too many $100 notes – although we’ll all need them today if we venture out to fill the car with petrol …

But if you didn’t know who was plastered across the front and back of our banknotes, does it really matter to you whose head will be on the $5 note?

And why does it have to be a person, not a thing?

For example, if a picture of new Parliament House is able to adorn one side of the $5 note, why not put a recipe for lamingtons on the other side? Or pavlova? Or take a leap and make it chicken parmigiana?

Or given we are using $5 now with the speed we once dispensed with spare change, perhaps we could provide one side for modern advice.

Parenting tips, for example, could be listed so that each time we opened our purse, we were given a little guidance on how to deal with a salty teenager, or a public toddler tantrum.

Of course, that won’t be popular with those who want $5 notes, but don’t want parenting advice, so perhaps we could broaden it out so it related to health tips. Have you had your heart tested lately? How about a mammogram? Did you know smoking causes deaths?

Or better still, what about short Hallmark sayings to get us through a cost-of-living pandemic where $5 notes don’t carry the value they once did.

Like: A hand-written note is a hug you get to keep.

Or, Walt Disney’s inspiration: If you can dream it, you can do it.

Or: When it rains, look for rainbows.

Imagine how many you could collect, and dispense with, in one week’s shopping. And that brings another thought. Would it be possible to leave one side blank, where we could pen our weekly grocery list?

That would work in my house.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers is right to suggest that Australians should be consulted on who will appear on future $5 notes.

But he should be ready for a plethora of suggestions. From King Charles to Ash Barty, or the Australian of the Year being featured in each annual print run to Shane Warne. Olivia Newton-John. Bert Newton. John Hamblin. Carla Zampatti. Don Bradman. Cathy Freeman.

The list goes on. But here’s the rub. Whether you know who is on a fiver or not, we all know it’s not worth what it used to be.

With petrol prices, mortgages, rent and grocery bills all soaring, most Australians are more focused on how they use $5 than whose headshot might be on it.

That cost-of-living challenge is the real task Jim Chalmers faces.



  1. New Parliament House and the Forecourt Mosaic
  2. Mary Reibey, who appears on one side of our $20 note. She was a convict who arrived in Australia and later became a very successful businesswoman
  3. The $100 banknote showcases the faces of Sir John Monash and Dame Nellie Melba
  4. David Unaipon was Australia’s first published Aboriginal author, as well as an inventor
  5. Edith Cowan.
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