Shepparton Heritage Centre inc
Some 150 years before young Harry Potter sat in the Office of Professor
Dumbledore, gazing in wonderment at the portraits on the wall - the occupants
of which, being social butterflies, flittered from frame to frame - the
good citizens of colonial Australia were having a similar experience.
The object of their admiration was, however, the various representations
of the unofficial pre-Federation Australian Coat -of-Arms, wherein the
kangaroo and emu shield supporters would, in sportsmanlike fashion, change
sides, perhaps allowing the sailing ship to travel from left to right within
the shield, or the other portrayed items to have a wander around.
Since the Heritage Centre is currently using the unofficial coat of arms
as a letterhead, readers might be interested in finding out a little more
As mentioned, our letterhead is just one of many variations of this insignia,
which was widely used throughout all the Australian colonies. The
first known example of the coat of arms is found on an 1853 medallion struck
to note the cessation of convict transportation and the foundation Jubilee
of Tasmania, and from this it appears to have spread to other coin tokens,
to use as a decoration on public buildings, to incorporation within advertising,
to use as an embossing on book covers, to use as a brass ornamentation,
and as a badge for helmet plates for the Western Australian Fire Department.
A beautiful sterling silver and enamel version is on the Sheffield Shield
cricket trophy, while a variant is still used as a pocket patch by the
current Australian Test Cricket team. Colours vary, my favourite being
a dark blue cross on a white shield, although blue on a red background,
or red cross on a yellow background, or coloured quarters to the shield
The popularity of the insignia probably owes its origins to the coin tokens,
made, I believe, by Stokes of Melbourne, and distributed through most of
the colonies. There is, however, no firm information on the designer
of the coat of arms, or when it was first placed before the public.
Readers might already know that it is, within heraldic practice, common
for the crest of a coat of arms to be used as a separate insignia.
This has lead to much debate, for the crest of the pre-Federation coat
of arms is clearly a Rising Sun, but it fails to conform to the rules of
heraldry. There are clear guidelines to how a rising sun, and setting
sun, should be portrayed - the difference being in the depiction of the
There is also a guideline for depicting "Old Sol " in all his glory, which
requires the image of the sun to have a small face drawn upon it.
Regardless of correctness of presentation, the image of the Rising Sun
had tremendous public appeal from the 1850's up to Federation, and was
always regarded as representing Australia Felix. This popularity
may be seen, for example, extending to Federation style housing, where
the verandas or roofline have used the image as decoration.