Australian Symbols booklet

The Australian Symbols booklet is an educational resource and a source of general information which presents the official symbols and emblems of the Commonwealth, state and territories of Australia.

The Great Seal of Australia

Making our mark

Most governments, as well as companies, use seals to establish their most important documents and agreements as genuine.

The authenticity of some agreements made by the Commonwealth Government is shown when the Great Seal of Australia is embossed into those official documents.

The design for the first Great Seal of Australia was chosen by the Government in 1901. Several hundred entries were received for a Great Seal design competition and its winners were the Bulletin cartoonist DH Souter and the painter Blamire Young.

The current version of the Great Seal was granted to Australia in a Royal Warrant by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973 and shows the Commonwealth Coat of Arms. The Commonwealth Coat of Arms is the formal symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia and signifies Commonwealth authority and ownership.

The history of seals

The study of seals is called sigillography and helps historians because the seal attached to a document may provide proof that it’s genuine. Many wax seals have survived from ancient times and the designs of the seals often give clues to the dress, arms, tools, ships and architecture of the period.

Romans commonly wore signet rings which they used to seal documents. In the Middle Ages, prominent men and women, as well as Kings and Administrators, had their own seals and used them in the same way as people use their signatures today. In Asia, many people even today have a carved block which they use as a method of authenticating documents and identifying goods.

In England, the Great Seal was first used in the 11th century as an indicator of the King’s authority. As the power of the seal grew, the King turned to using a private, often secret, seal for his more personal correspondence.

Permission to use

You may not reproduce images of the Great Seal without permission of the Cabinet Secretariat, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.