The royal Australian Mint is issuing new commemorative coins to celebrate the 2017 National Reconciliation Week, and the two major anniversaries that coincide with this year's event.
Each year National Reconciliation Week is marked in Australia from the 27th of May to the 3rd of June. The event aims to celebrates and build on the respectful relationships shared between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
In 2017 the two dates that bookend this celebration mark two major milestones in that journey. The 27th of March marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, where over 90% of Australians voted in favour of granting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders equal rights and be included in the national census.
June the 3rd in turn refers to the 25th anniversary of the landmark Mabo decision handed down by the Australian High Court in 1992. In this decision the High Court ruled that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders be granted greater land rights, that they have a special relationship to the land - a relationship that existed prior to colonialisation and still exists today. The name refers to Eddie Koiki Mabo, a Torres Straits Islander who led the charge in the case to have the legal doctrine of terra nullius("nobody's land") nullified in the case.
The new Pride and Passion fifty cent coin will be available as both a circulating commemorative coin and as a special silver proof coin to collectors. During a press event to launch the coin, attended by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, the Royal Australian Mint's CEO Mr Ross MacDiarmid had the following comments:
“The 1967 Referendum recognised First Australians in the Census and gave the Commonwealth a Constitutional role in relation to their fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the Mabo High Court case was a landmark moment in the history of Indigenous land rights,”
He further continued :
“When people receive this coin in their change, they will be prompted to take some time to learn about the progress of reconciliation and our shared histories.”
Also in attendance was the coin's designer, contemporary artist and granddaughter of Eddie Mabo - Boneta-Marie Mabo. She had the following remarks on being given the opportunity to design this particular coin :
“I am so honoured that the Royal Australian Mint invited me to work with them as an artist to design the coin and that they have given me the opportunity to be a part of such a nationally recognised celebration which means so much to me and my family”
The reverse of the 2017 Pride and Passion coin features both a portrait of Eddie Mabo and an iconic pamphlet from the 1967 referendum that reads : “RIGHT WRONGS WRITE YES for ABORIGINES!”. These are flanked by the flag of the Torres Strait Islands, to the left, and the Australian Aboriginal Flag to the bottom. The words “1992 MABO – 25 YEARS” appears to the top in a semi-circle and “1967 REFERENDUM – 50 YEARS” similarly to the bottom.
The obverse of the twelve-sided coin depicts the standard obverse design featuring the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II. The portrait is flanked by “ELIZABETH II” to the left and “AUSTRALIA 2017” to the right.
The circulating commemorative coin is set to enter circulation later in 2017, while the silver proof variant can be ordered directly from the Royal Australian Mint at a cost of AU$80.00(US$60) each. The special proof coin is struck from pure 99.9% fine silver and measures 31.51mm(1.24 inch ) in diameter with a weight of 18.24 grams(0.6433 oz). A total mintage of 5000 coins have been struck for the Silver Proof coin, and each coin ordered from the Mint will also be accompanied by a special uncirculated quality circulating 50 cent coin.