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Icons of Canberra flagged for next stage of ACT coat of arms

Michael Weaver8 June 2021
The Belconnen Owl statue

Could a local landmark like the Belconnen Owl be a contender for the ACT coat of arms? Photo: File.

Canberra landmarks could be considered for the ACT coat of arms by a community reference panel, with the design to be decided by the public before the end of 2021.

The eight-person community reference panel includes Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Roslyn Brown and United Ngunnawal Youth Council member Bradley Mapiva-Brown, with members of the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra, Professor Janette Lindesay and Dr Joe Johnson.

Vexillology expert Edwin Crump and ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences’ Dr Pia van Gelder are also on the panel, with Canberra citizens Steven Squires, Tang Ben Chang and the group’s convener, Terry Fewtrell.

Mr Fewtrell said there is a good level of interest from people wanting to be involved in the next stage of developing the ACT coat of arms after the ACT Government flagged the need for it, in addition to the suite of emblems and insignia used to promote and celebrate the ACT.

This already includes a separate coat of arms of the City of Canberra and other forms of insignia.

The coat of arms of the City of Canberra, which features a black swan and a white swan, was granted by the College of Arms in London in 1928. It was requested by the Department of Defence to be used on the then newly commissioned ship, HMAS Canberra. However, it is not considered a true representation of Canberra’s identity.

The Coat of Arms of the City of Canberra

The coat of arms of the City of Canberra. Image: File.

Mr Fewtrell said the coat of arms of the City of Canberra is outdated and a more modern coat of arms could include references to ACT icons that better represent Canberrans’ connection to where they live.

“The population of Canberra is now more than 400,000 people who have a far more significant sense of our identity and what we stand for,” he said.

“There has also been an enormous amount of scholarship, both historical and archaeological, about the significance of Aboriginal people in the land here.

“Those two points alone mean it is thoroughly appropriate to think about how we express ourselves in a coat of arms.

“There’s never been a better time to do it and the cost of it all when we look back in 100 years will be bugger all.”

Students from the University of Canberra will be involved in the next stage of the process that involves designing a number of concepts that will be presented to the community reference panel for consideration.

A public vote to select the ACT coat of arms will then take place before the new design is announced later this year. A redesign of the ACT flag will also be considered following the process.

Mr Fewtrell said while some aspects of heraldry on the new coat of arms would be appropriate, he hopes the design will represent Indigenous heritage rather than any links to the Commonwealth.

“We’ve been saying all along the design must speak to, and of, the people of Canberra and their place,” he said. “My personal view is that the design should largely be informed by Aboriginal concepts and the landscape here.

“It will certainly be very interesting to see what the students come up with as their initial design concepts.”

You can follow the progress of the ACT coat of arms on the ACT Government’s Your Say website.

Original Article published by Michael Weaver on The RiotACT.

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