Australia will release a new $5 note tomorrow (September 1, 2016). One side of the note will feature an updated portrait of Queen Elizabeth, a blue strip down the middle adorned by yellow Prickly Moses Wattle images, and an Eastern Spinebill bird. The flip side of the note will feature Parliament House and more Prickly Moses Wattle imagery.
To date, the note has attracted heavy criticism for being ugly. Well, that is, until you look a little deeper, or maybe, feel a little deeper. For there’s something quite remarkable about the new $5 note, as it’s the first Australian monetary note to go into circulation that can be read by the blind.
On the back of a Change.org petition which attracted 57,201 signatories, set up by then 12-year old blind boy, Connor and his mother, Alexandria from Sydney in 2013, calling for tactile markings to be included in Australia’s new banknotes, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia issued a statement in Feb 20, 2015 expressing his willingness to include tactile markings on the new banknotes.
On February 20, 2015, Mr Stevens said the next generation of Australian banknotes would include a ‘tactile’ feature to help the vision impaired.
“As previously announced, existing features to help the vision impaired tell the difference between different denominations of Australian banknotes will be maintained on the new series. These include bright colours; large and bold numbers; and different sizes for each denomination of banknote. The Bank will also continue to fund the production of the ‘cash test card’. The addition of a ‘tactile’ feature will further assist people with a vision impairment to tell the difference between denominations,” Mr Stevens said.
“This decision is the culmination of extensive research by the Bank into whether an effective and durable tactile marking could be included on Australian banknotes. This included consultation with the vision impaired community, other stakeholders and overseas central banks.
“The testing and trialling process for the next generation of banknotes is ongoing and designs have not yet been finalised. Details about the new designs, the release dates and how they will be issued will be released in a timely way, so that the public can be confident they understand how to recognise and use the new banknotes,” said Mr Stevens.
In an article penned by Connor for news.com.au today (August 31, 2016) using special software that allowed him to write, Connor described the “ugly” $5 note as something that will benefit his life, and allow him to feel more independent.
“The $5 that comes out tomorrow isn’t ugly to me. It’s the first Australian bank note that Australia’s 360,000 blind people, like me, can read,” wrote Connor.
“Tomorrow, me and mum will be celebrating, but we also want to thank those 57,000 people who’ve really helped Australia’s blind community.
“Now when I grow up, I won’t have to rely on trusting that people have always given me the right change. I can feel the markings on the bank notes and tell them if they’ve given me the wrong change and also think to myself: I did that,” said Connor.
“Above all, it means I can be independent. I can’t wait for that. That feels good.”
Read Connor’s full article published by news.com