February 14, 1966 saw the introduction of decimal currency to Australia. On Changeover Day, the old system of pounds, shillings and pence gave way to the new dollars and cents. A year earlier, an extensive public education program had been launched by the Decimal Currency Board. The following advertisement is from the National Film and Sound Archives collection.
Schools introduced the new currency to their students. Television advertisements were aired featuring a cartoon character called Dollar Bill. The Retail Traders’ Association held special lectures for members. In the lead-up The Courier-Mail ran a regular column, ABC of Decimals, which advised the public on conversions and practical applications. There was even a telephone service, The Dollar Jills, on hand to answer questions.
All of these preparations paid off, with the changeover remarkably smooth. Prime Minister Harold Holt said Australians deserved a “pat on the back for the good-natured way they have accepted decimal currency into their daily routine”. Brisbanites could take their share of the credit, though there were a few complaints due to confusion over conversion and suspicions of overcharging by some shopkeepers.
Three weeks before the changeover, The Courier-Mail conducted a street survey to record what Brisbane citizens thought of the new currency. It received a mixed reception: ” [The notes] look like lolly wrappers. They would go better on a jam tin than in a wallet” was one response. Another man expressed his indifference – “I wouldn’t really care if Ned Kelly’s portrait was on them, as long as I have enough”.
As part of State Library of Queensland’s collection, the John Oxley Library holds a few educational materials produced by the Decimal Currency Board including – Dollar & Cents & You (1966) and For businessmen : how to change over to dollars & cents (1965). Also part of our collection are two school textbooks from 1966, which were published in Brisbane by Jacaranda Press – Third year mathematics A : decimal currency and Third year mathematics A and B : decimal currency.
YouTube clips via National Film and Sound Archive and National Archives of Australia.
Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland
[First published on 12 May 2014. Updated on 14 February 2016]