Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

New 50c coin includes unique design to celebrate our indigenous history and languages

James Hall, April 10, 2019 6:30PM

Print Article

the International Year of Indigenous Languages has been celebrated with a new 50c coin designed launched by the Royal Australian Mint. media_camerathe International Year of Indigenous Languages has been celebrated with a new 50c coin designed launched by the Royal Australian Mint.


Reading level: green

A new 50c coin has been released in Australia, with a historic feature our money has never seen before.

The latest coin features 14 different translations* for the word “money” from Australian indigenous* languages.

The Royal Australian Mint released the coins on Monday this week to celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The brand new Australian 50 cent coin celebrates Indigenous languages. media_cameraThe new Australian 50c coin.

Mint chief executive Ross MacDiarmid said the group worked with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to include various indigenous language groups to create the newest coin in circulation*.

“These coins are a celebration of Australia’s unique and diverse indigenous languages,” Mr MacDiarmid said.

“We hope the coins will serve as a tangible* reminder of the important efforts being undertaken to preserve, protect and revitalise* indigenous languages in Australia.”

VIDEO: New effigy of Queen Elizabeth II added to Australian coin

The words are recent additions to indigenous languages.

Before the indigenous lands were colonised* by European settlers, there was no word for “money” because items such as pearl shells, quartz* or food was used for trade.

The words used on the coin are a combination of phrases from different indigenous groups.

For instance, the word “ngkweltye” from the language Kaytetye, which is spoken in Central Australia translates to the word “piece” — as does the word “pirrki” from the language of the Kaurna people in parts of South Australia.

In Gathang, spoken on NSW’s Central Coast, the word “dhinggarr” is used, which translates to the word “grey” and is believed to be used as a description for the colour of a coin.

Old documents containing early records of Aboriginal words. media_cameraIndigenous language is an important part of our nation’s history. These old documents contain early records of Aboriginal words.

The institute conducted a survey in 2014 that found indigenous Australians viewed language as very important to identity and recognised that staying connected to language strengthens wellbeing and self-confidence in indigenous communities.

“Indigenous languages carry more meaning than the words themselves, so too does currency carry meaning beyond its monetary* value,” the institute’s chief executive Craig Ritchie said.

“The release of these coins is another milestone* in recognising the diverse cultures that shape our national story of over 60,000 years.”

The 2014 survey also found only 120 Australian indigenous languages are spoken today compared to the more than 250 languages that were in known use in 1788.


  • translation: changing words or text from one language into another
  • indigenous: native to a country
  • circulation: available for public use
  • tangible: real
  • revitalise: give new life to
  • colonised: settled among and established control over (the indigenous people of an area)
  • quarz: a mineral in the form of a hard, shiny crystal
  • monetary: relating to money
  • milestone: a significant stage or event in the development of something


How Aussie coins are made

How does the Australian dollar get its value?

New $50 note rich in security features


  1. How many different translations are on the new 50c coin?
  2. What do all the translations mean?
  3. Name the Royal Australian Mint boss.
  4. What items were used for trade before money was invented?
  5. How many indigenous languages are spoken in Australia today?


1. Spread the word
Design a poster or write the words for a jingle (a song used in an advertisement on TV, online or radio) or create a storyboard for a TV or YouTube ad. Your topic is the new 50c coin. Your purpose is to help Australian kids learn about the new coin and why it is important to know about indigenous languages.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Civics and Citizenship

2. Extension
The new coin has been created for the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Think of another way that we could celebrate this event. Write a plan or create a design based on your idea.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Civics and Citizenship, Visual Communication Design, English

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Can you speak any languages other than English? Which language is it? How did you learn the language?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in money