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Australian coin that depicts Aboriginal and convict history

It will be released on Sept 7, on the eve of the anniversary of the late Queen’s death.

Australia has honoured Queen Elizabeth II with a new five-dollar coin featuring the late monarch on one side and depictions of Aboriginal heritage and convict history on the other.

The new coin, produced by the Royal Australian Mint, is to be released on Sept 7, on the eve of the anniversary of the late Queen’s death.

It was unveiled at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, a site built by the British to house convicts after the penal colony of New South Wales was established in 1788.

The sandstone barracks feature on the coin, along with other World Heritage-listed convict sites, where prisoners in shackles were made to perform hard labour in brutal conditions.

Australia has 11 UNESCO-recognised convict sites, from Fremantle in Western Australia to Tasmania and the dreaded penal settlement on Norfolk Island in the Pacific. More than 166,000 men, women and children were banished as convicts to Australia in a period of 80 years.

Some of the worst convicts of the British Empire were sent to Port Arthur, one of the sites featured on the coin. Surrounded by water, the former timber station was difficult to escape.

Convicts were regularly whipped and beaten or forced into tiny “isolation” cells, where they were not allowed to speak, if they broke the prison’s rules.

Fremantle remained a functioning jail until 1991, when it was shut after riots sparked by prison conditions that saw guards captured and taken hostage.

Australia’s other World Heritage sites are also featured on the new coin, from the Sydney Opera House to the Great Barrier Reef. The Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and the tropical rainforests of northern Queensland also feature.

The country’s Aboriginal heritage is represented by depictions of ancient settlements and an image of a handprint, a mark that Aborigines once left on the walls of caves and on rock slabs across the continent.

The honouring of Aboriginal culture comes as Australians prepare to vote in an Oct 14 referendum on whether to grant indigenous people a mechanism for advising parliament on policies that affect them.

Supporters say that the so-called “Voice to Parliament” is long overdue, while opponents argue that it will split Australia along racial lines without doing much to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who account for the most disadvantaged section of society.

They suffer high rates of unemployment, imprisonment, suicide and domestic violence and on average live about eight years less than other Australians.

In the referendum, Australians will be asked to vote yes or no on whether to “alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice”.

The image of the late Queen was designed by Jody Clark, a renowned British engraver who produced portraits of the monarch for British coinage.

The coin is likely to be welcomed by royalists, particularly in the wake of a decision taken earlier this year by the Reserve Bank of Australia not to feature an image of King Charles on the new five-dollar bank note.

Professor Richard Mackay, a former chairman of Australia’s World Heritage Advisory Committee, said: “This amazing coin highlights the diversity of Australia’s internationally significant heritage and will encourage awareness of our unique biodiversity, deep indigenous connections with country and extraordinary cultural places.”

Andrew Leigh, a government minister, said: “As Australians we’re fortunate to live in a country with so much natural beauty. By celebrating Australia’s World Heritage sites through this collectible coin, the Royal Australian Mint is doing its bit to help spread the word about our magnificent natural and built heritage”.

  1. Budj Bim volcano – Aboriginal communities believe the Budj Bim volcano is where the Ancestral Creator revealed himself, between 30,000 and 39,000 years ago, when it last underwent a major eruption.
  2. Hyde Park Barrack – Originally built to house convicts, the Hyde Park Barracks also served as a women’s immigration depot and asylum. It later housed law courts and government offices. Today it is a museum.
  3. Freemantle Prison – Used as a jail for nearly 140 years, it became the first building in Western Australia to be included on the World Heritage list in 2010
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