​The new Australian $5 note is a window into the future

Australian dollarydoos are now at the forefront of global innovation and anti-fraud technology. And they look pretty darn good too.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
Expertise Space | Futurism | Robotics | Tech Culture | Science and Sci-Tech Credentials
  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
3 min read
Enlarge Image

The new Australian $5 note is familiar, but markedly different.

RBA/Claire Reilly/CNET

We're pretty darn proud of our money in Australia. Our 50 cent coins are shaped like limited-edition Tazos, you can run our notes through the wash and we're the only country in the world where you can trade two lobsters and a tenner for a pineapple and call things square.

And from today, Australia's $5 notes are getting a serious upgrade.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has released a batch of new $5 notes into circulation, with new features designed to make them harder to forge, easier for vision impaired people to use and with a fancy clear window that makes them look like the cash you'd use in "Blade Runner".

So what exactly is new?

Well, in a world first, the new fiver has a clear window running all the way down the middle of the note, surrounded by yellow wattle. There's also a rolling colour effect that changes the colour of a small bird on the note (the Eastern Spinebill for ornithologists playing at home) and makes it look like it's flapping its wings.

Moving the note makes an image of the Eastern Spinebill fly. Prevents counterfeiting, also looks cool.


And the new notes are doing social good too, with a tactile feature designed to help the vision impaired differentiate the note from others in their wallet.

That feature comes in large part thanks to Sydney teenager Connor McLeod, a blind boy who started a Change.org petition to introduce features that would help him work out what notes he was handing over when he was out and about.

The petition caught the RBA's attention and made them realise "we should be doing a bit more," according to RBA Assistant Governor Michelle Bullock.

"There's a little dot on each long end of the bank note and people who are blind or vision impaired will be able to feel for that," she told ABC TV. "Different denominations will have different number of bumps on them...We're very proud of it and we're very happy that it's there."

The raised tactile dots on the new note have been introduced to help vision impaired people.


The bumps will also feature on other denominations of notes as they're progressively upgraded and released into circulation.

The upgrade is required, Bullock said, because counterfeiting technology is getting better and our cash needs to catch up. And that's where the world-first clear window comes in.

"It's very difficult to replicate a bank note that's got a big clear strip in the middle," she told the ABC's News Breakfast program today. "[And] there's a whole lot of security features in the middle of the window which also add to the anti-counterfeiting resilience of the bank note."

These kinds of innovations have been partnered with older features, which are still "really effective" in combating counterfeiting.

Some of the older anti-fraud features include:

  • Intaglio -- raised printing that gives texture to the 5 and the portrait of the Queen
  • Microprint -- bone up on the Constitution, it's printed in tiny writing around the note's Parliament house
  • A window in the corner -- a seven-pointed Federation Star embossed with a light and dark effect. (Fun fact: The seven points represent the six states and combined territories. Thank you Canberra primary-school education!)

The pink colours, the Queen and Parliament House still feature on the new note, so they'll be familiar when you pick one up. And you'll still be able to use the old fivers, which remain legal tender.

Most of all, you'll be able to buy hot chips and sauce knowing Australia has the best money in the world.