ACT News


City given custody of heraldry

It has taken one hundred years but Canberra has ''come of age'', with the federal government transferring custody of the documents authorising the use of the city's coat of arms to the territory.

The documents, created in 1928, include the Royal Warrant authorising the use of the imperial crown in the crest, and the ''grant of arms'' and the ''grant of the supporters'' from the Royal College of Arms in Britain.

They have been stored by the National Archives since 1953, and officially handed to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher on Monday by Senator Kate Lundy.

''[It's] a nod to Canberra's centenary celebrations, making it a wonderful symbolic gesture and birthday present,'' Senator Lundy said. Ms Gallagher welcomed the gesture, saying it was appropriate Canberrans hold ownership of the important historical documents.

''We'll be the custodians of those documents and I think that does recognise that the city has come of age in our hundred years,'' she said. Ms Gallagher was open to discuss whether the coat of arms, with its motto ''for the queen, the law and the people'', was still relevant.

''There has been debate in recent times about what the symbolism of the coat of arms means to us today. Even at the time the coat of arms was granted, there were criticisms it wasn't Australian enough,'' she said.


Indeed the design process proved controversial; ''a classically Canberra story'' Ms Gallagher said, explaining the public competition to find a suitable design.

''The [Federal Capital] Commission was then unhappy with the resulting entries which were described in The Canberra Times in September 1927 as 'disappointing and scarcely up to the standard required' … instead one of the entrants, well-known heraldry expert Mr C.R. Wylie was commissioned to come up with a design deemed more appropriate.

''We've had a few of those stories this centenary year as well I believe,'' she joked.

The documents will be on display at the Canberra Museum and Gallery in November, but their fragile nature makes them unsuitable for permanent exhibit.