January 21

Whose Order of Australia?


In 1975, on Whitlam’s advice, the Queen established the Australian honours system, with the Governor-General, as Chancellor of the Order of Australia, responsible for its administration.

Whitlam had modelled his new Australian honours system on the Canadian honours system which had been established some nine years earlier.  Stuart Devlin, the Australian who had designed Australia’s first decimal coins following the introduction of decimal currency in 1966, was commissioned by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, to design the insignia for the new honours system. 

In due course Devlin was ready to show his proposed designs to the Governor-General and the Prime Minister.

 As Devlin proudly displayed full-sized models of his proposals for the insignia of the Order of Australia, Whitlam almost exploded.

 There, in the centre of each golden wattle blossom, was an enamelled full-colour representation of the Commonwealth of Australia coat of arms, the shield of which contains the emblems of each of the six States that had constituted the Commonwealth at Federation.

 Pointing wildly at these, Whitlam loudly declared that he was not having those State emblems on his (sic) insignia, and instructed Devlin to remove the coat of arms from his designs.

[Extract from Sir David Smith, review on this site of The Chameleon Crown, by Dr Anne Twomey, The Federation Press, Sydney, 2006, first published in Canadian Monarchist News, Les Nouvelles Monarchiques du Canada. 

Sir David is shown on the steps of Old Parliament House reading the Proclamation dissolving the Parliament on 11 November, 1975.  Mr Whitlam, whose commission as Prime Minister had been withdrawn that morning by the Governor -General, Sir John Kerr, is standing behind Sir David]


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