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Quest for a 'relevant' coat of arms

Worn out? The city of Canberra's coat of arms on the ACT flag.

Worn out? The city of Canberra's coat of arms on the ACT flag. Photo: Graham Tidy

The ACT is one of the world’s only self-governing jurisdictions that lacks an official coat of arms.

But while it’s likely few of us even noticed, some residents are determined to create a heraldic emblem for the territory in the centenary year.

The heraldry on the ACT flag actually belongs to the city of Canberra, not the territory, and was designed mainly to reflect the Federal Parliament and its surrounding institutions.

Old-world imagery of the Canberra coat of arms.

Old-world imagery of the Canberra coat of arms.

Its mediaeval imagery consists of crowns, castles, swords and maces, while the black and white swans holding its shield represent Aborigines and white Europeans.

The Latin motto ‘‘Pro rege, lege et grege’’ (‘‘For the King, the law and the people’’) is yet another reason one of the campaigners, Terry Fewtrell, says Canberra should ditch its ‘‘outdated’’ coat of arms.

‘‘It’s a travesty that nothing in it reflects the real Canberra,’’ he said on Wednesday. ‘‘It is neither Australian, nor reflective of the people and the place that we live in.’’

The Northern Territory's indigenous-themed heraldry.

The Northern Territory's indigenous-themed heraldry.

Mr Fewtrell, who is chairman of the National Wattle Day Association, and fellow republicans Justin Ryan and Professor John Warhurst, want Canberrans to devise an alternative emblem that sums up the city and its residents.

Mr Fewtrell pointed to the Northern Territory’s coat of arms, which depicts Aboriginal motifs and local animals and flowers, saying heraldry need not be rooted in old-world, aristocratic imagery.

‘‘You don’t have to be bound by all those old symbols – the castles and so on. You can be very creative.’’

Mr Ryan, the ACT convener of the Australian Republican Movement, said heraldry could still be relevant in the 21st century, but only if the imagery itself was meaningful.

‘‘It’s been that way for thousands of years: we have symbols that represent who we are as a people.’’

A keen rock climber, he said he would like to see the Brindabella Ranges on an ACT coat of arms.

‘‘For me, the Brindabellas are one of the images that define Canberra. I spend a lot of time there, and a lot of Canberrans see those mountains every day.’’

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said on Wednesday the centenary was an ‘‘opportunity to reflect on what it means to be Canberran and how that is best represented, including in our coat of arms’’.

‘‘I am meeting with people interested in pursuing this discussion in the coming week,’’ she said.

Canberra’s coat of arms was first used in 1928 on an Australian warship, HMAS Canberra.

It was created a year earlier by C.R.Wylie, who won a public competition to design it.

Send your ideas and designs to ps@canberratimes.com.au or add a comment below.

21 comments so far

  • Oh God, we are going to end up with another "Skywhale" design! Run for the hills!

    Commenter
    kamb
    Date and time
    August 14, 2013, 3:11PM
    • Leave it alone.
      Don't pick it, you will make it worse !!!!

      Commenter
      Drivel
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 3:43PM
      • He climbs the Brindabellas and spends a lot of time there, so they should be included in the design. Makes a lot of sense (not). I drink beer, so lets put a few beer cans in it. Oh! and I like fishing so lets put a few rods in it as well. Where do these clown come from. For God's sake leave things alone. Why are they intent on destroying the symbols of our history and kamb, please don't mention the skywhale. The Chief Minister and her advisers are just as likely to run with it.

        Commenter
        Grange
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        August 14, 2013, 3:50PM
        • How about two crossed cycles over a roundabout, quartered by roadworks blazoned with the Brand Depot?

          Commenter
          limojoe
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          August 14, 2013, 3:56PM
          • Why is it that someone always want to change things that are not broken.
            Leave our coat of arms alone...........

            Commenter
            davidG
            Location
            act
            Date and time
            August 14, 2013, 4:26PM
            • Would we prepared to have a bunch of whingeing NIMBY public servants on our coat of arms?

              Commenter
              Richo
              Location
              Canberra
              Date and time
              August 14, 2013, 4:39PM
              • Somethings are best left alone - they may be anacronisms but at least they are ours...

                Commenter
                Outraged of Palmerston
                Date and time
                August 14, 2013, 4:50PM
                • Do we really have that much spare cash to be changing the furniture?

                  Commenter
                  JazzyJeff
                  Date and time
                  August 14, 2013, 6:42PM
                  • Exactly.

                    Commenter
                    OLD DOG
                    Date and time
                    August 15, 2013, 8:44AM
                • can't be worse than the embarrassing Skywhale.......not sure that Canberra will live that one down.

                  Commenter
                  Here we go
                  Date and time
                  August 14, 2013, 6:59PM

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