A special birthday gift for Canberra

Media release: Monday, 1 July 2013

The National Archives of Australia has marked Canberra's centenary with a special birthday gift – the transfer of the city's coat of arms into ACT custody.

The coat of arms was authorised by King George V in 1928 after a competition to create the design.

'We are delighted to be able to transfer these records to Canberra under section 24 of the Archives Act,' said Director-General of the National Archives, David Fricker. 'It makes sense in this centenary year for the city to be given custody of such important historical documents.'

Attending the ceremony and conducting the handover were Senator Kate Lundy and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.

As the creator of the design following the 1927 competition, Mr C.R. Wylie later wrote that he had chosen as armorial bearings a triple-towered castle representing a capital city, and the sword of justice and a parliamentary mace, intersecting below an imperial crown.

The design also includes a white rose, the badge of York 'in remembrance of the Princes of that House and their visits to the City'. A portcullis, the badge of Westminster, 'the home of the mother of all parliaments', was used as the crest, with a gum tree behind it symbolising the idea of Canberra as a garden city.

One white swan and one black swan were chosen as the supporters of the coat of arms. The Latin motto, adopted from the Federal Capital Commission's motto, was pro rege, lege and grege – translated as 'for the king, the law and the people'.

The suite of records being transferred includes the document signed by King George V on 8 October 1928 authorising the Royal College of Arms to issue Canberra's coat of arms.

The other items in the transfer are the Grant of Arms to the Federal Capital Commission and the City of Canberra by the Royal College of Arms; The Grant of 'Supporters' to the Arms of the Federal Capital Commission and the City of Canberra by the Royal College of Arms; gold embossed despatch boxes that contained them and an impress seal that bears the Canberra coat of arms.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
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