Royal Australian Mint IYIL2019 Fifty Cent Coin

IYIL2019 Fifty cent coin.

This week the Royal Australian Mint announced the release of a commemorative 50 cent coin for the International Year of Indigenous Languages! The new coin features the word for ‘money’ in fourteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages from across Australia. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) collaborated on the initiative which included consultations with the fourteen language groups represented on the new coinage.

banggul: Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, Yuwaalayaay Dictionary entry.

The concept of ‘money’ or ‘coins’ was not an element of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and was introduced post-contact. Most words referring to money or coins are based on ‘stones’ or ‘rocks’ due to the similar appearance of coins. In the example, above from Yuwaalaraay, banggul or is used for money – traditionally it referred to small flat stones.

Stones [author’s photograph].

The fourteen languages referenced on the coin include three from Queensland:

  • bakir  from Meriam language of Eastern Torres Straits
  • mulu from the Yugambeh language of  South-East Queensland
  • nambal from Guugu Yimithirr language of Hope Vale and Cooktown region in Far North Queensland

Closeup of 50 cent coin.

All of these words traditionally referred to ‘stones’ and were later adapted for coins.  The Royal Australian Mint has developed an interactive website that provides more details on the 14 languages and where to obtain further information.



This is a great initiative from the Royal Australian Mint to raise awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as part of the International Year for Indigenous Languages.


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map


UN IY2019 Links

UN International Year of Indigenous Languages webpages

UN International Year of Indigenous Languages Resources


Royal Australian Mint

“International Year of Indigenous Languages commemorated with new coins” online article.

Interactive website


Image Source:

Royal Australian Mint: Media Release.


Further Reading

Other materials in the State Library collections relating to the three Queensland languages featured on the coin include:

Allan, J. and Lane, J. (2001) The language of the Wangerriburra and neighbouring groups in the Yugambeh regionP 499.15 all

Ash, A., Giacon, J. and Lissarrague, A. (2003) Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, Yuwaalayaay Dictionary. J 499.1503 GAM

Boyd, J. (2013) Bakir and Bi. Illustrated by Tori-Jay Mordey. JUV 823.4 BOY

Curr, E. M. (1887) The Australian Race: its origins, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. RBF 572.994 cur

De Zwaan, J. (1969) A preliminary analysis of Gogo-Yimidjir: a study of the structure of the primary dialect of the Aboriginal language spoken at the Hopevale Mission in North Queensland. Q499.15 dez

Edwards, R. (ed) (2003) Dictionary of Torres Strait languages. Q 499.1503 RAY

Haviland, J. (1979) ‘Guugu Yimidhirr’, in Handbook of Australian languages. Vol 1. J 499.15 HAN

Lawrie, M. The Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Straits Materials. TR2082

Roth, W. E. (1898-1903) “Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903.” FILM 0714

Sharpe, M. (2005) Dictionary of Yugambeh (including neighbouring dialects). Q 499.15 sha

Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits and Proper NamesQ 994.0049915 tin

Watson, F. J. (1944) “Vocabularies of four representative tribes of South Eastern Queensland”; supplement to the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia(Queensland), No. 34, Vol XLVIII. REFJ 499.15 wat