The new design, which follows the updated $5 and $10 notes, was unveiled on Thursday ahead of its release into general circulation this October. It is expected the $20 note will be updated this year and be released in October 2019, with the $100 note to follow in late 2020.
The RBA said it was working closely with banknote equipment manufacturers and retailers to help them prepare ATMs and other machines to handle the new note, after teething issues with previous rollouts saw the new designs rejected at supermarkets, vending machines, pokies and TAB betting terminals.
“There have been machines that haven’t been ready for previous releases, but I would emphasise that’s a decision of the operators and manufacturers of those machines, it’s entirely a business call by them as to when they upgrade their machines,” RBA assistant governor of banking services Lindsay Boulton said.
“Will every single machine be available from day one? No, and I wouldn’t expect that, because even though the notes are going to be released in October, it takes many months for the new notes to reach a reasonable saturation.
“The $5 note, for example, was released in September 2016 [and] it only just reached 55 per cent saturation. That suggests in some regions, some particular operators make a decision not to upgrade their machines until saturation levels and customer usage is such that it warrants them.”
Mr Boulton said it was a “reasonable expectation” that more should do so given this was the third in the series and the bank’s “flagship” product. “We’ve been talking to banknote equipment manufacturers and machine operators [about this] for 10 years now,” he said.
“Specifically around the $50, we’ve been talking to manufacturers but in particular operators of ATMs for many months now, the most recent advice we’ve had from them is that we’re tracking well with their plans to upgrade.”
The RBA, which has already conducted a number of trials and the early distribution of test notes to allow manufacturers to update their equipment, said it was releasing the design today to “facilitate this ongoing work” as well as staff training to ensure a smooth transition later this year.
In a statement, RBA governor Philip Lowe said “improved security and ease of recognition” underpinned the new design, which continues to feature portraits of Aboriginal author David Unaipon and Edith Cowan, the first female member of an Australian parliament.
“With the release of the $5 and $10 during the past two years, we are confident the Australian public are becoming familiar with the new banknote security features,” Mr Lowe said.
The security elements include a top-to-bottom clear window with dynamic features such as a reversing number and flying bird, as well as a patch with a rolling colour effect and microprint featuring excerpts from Unaipon’s book Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines and Cowan’s maiden parliamentary speech.
“David Unaipon and Edith Cowan were campaigners for social change and we are proud to continue featuring them on the $50 banknote,” Mr Lowe said. “The new banknote provides the opportunity to tell more of the rich story behind these distinguished Australians.”
The design elements include shields from Unaipon’s Ngarrindjeri nation and the practices of miwi and navel cord exchange. It also includes a picture of the gumnut brooch Cowan had made to symbolise that entry into Parliament was a “hard nut to crack” for women, and a picture of the King Edward Memorial Hospital that she helped establish.
Each note in the new series features a different wattle and native bird, in this case the Acacia humifusa — Unaipon’s ngaitji, or totem — and a black swan, the bird of Cowan’s home state of Western Australia. The new banknote series also has a “tactile” feature to help the vision-impaired community.