Australia has long been known for having free spirits and its people being trail blazers. Their banknotes follow that history. While many older currencies were typical paper money and often had the English monarch, in the early 1990’s Australia made a decision to pursue polymer-based currency instead of paper money. Australia and its printer, Note Printing of Australia, weren’t the first try to use plastics instead of paper for their banknotes. In the 1960’s Dupont tried to use Tyvek as a polymer substrate, it was even tried in Guatemala. It didn’t work well primarily because ink didn’t adhere very well. Another other reason is that plastic banknotes feel different and for people used to their paper notes, plastic can feel different and even fake.
Polymer banknotes were liked because unlike paper banknotes that tended to fall apart in hot, humid environments typical in the South Pacific, polymer based materials did not. They became independent progressively from 1901 to WWII and then finally and completely in 1986. In 1966 Pounds were converted to Australian Dollars and began using Queen Elizabeth II on one dollar notes. Queen Elizabeth II has been used on one denomination of all Australian currency series since then. Australia introduced its first polymer banknote in 1988 with a commemorative 10 dollar that has a portrait of an Aboriginal warrior and a vignette of a sailing ship.
The first circulation polymer note was a 5 dollar note, which of course had a Queen Elizabeth II Portrait. This portrait was first produced by John Lawrence and depicts the Queen in casual attire with two pearl necklaces. For 2016 series, Queen Elizabeth II's portrait was redrawn to be more detailed and visually appealing. On the transparent window is the official ceremonial location of the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Federation Pavilion. On the reverse of the Australian 5 dollar banknote is the Parliament House of Australia, first opened on May 9th 1988.