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Symbols of Australia

Card with an image of a koala climbing a flag pole which has the Australian flag at the top. There is a sprig of holly and a spray of wattle at the base of the flag pole. Text across the bottom reads 'Christmas greetings from the Australian War Contingent Association., London 1916.'
'Christmas greetings from the Australian War Contingent Association, London 1916,' postcard. Courtesy: State Library of Victoria.

Drawn from the collection of the National Museum of Australia, the Symbols of Australia exhibition explored some of the symbols Australians have chosen to represent themselves and their nation.

Australia — both ancient continent and recent nation — is represented by many symbols. National symbols are often used to represent a distinctive national identity. Some symbols endure, others fade away and new symbols develop as attitudes and values change. Often a source of unity and pride, symbols can also divide and exclude.

The Australian flag is legislated as an official symbol. Others, like the kangaroo and wattle, have changed from popular to official symbols over time. The boomerang was a symbol of the continent long before the nation came into being. In the 20th century, the Sydney Harbour Bridge came to symbolise Australia's spectacular attractions, while the Holden car became an emblem of the everyday.

Explore more about the exhibition online


This exhibition was supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

National Collecting Institutions Touring & Outreach Program