Culture and heritage


Bank of NSW

Advance Australia Arms on a Bank of NSW building

This Advance Australia Arms is displayed on a branch building of the Bank of New South Wales in Pitt Street (between Market and Park streets), Sydney.

The Bank of New South Wales was established in 1817 during Governor Macquarie's time, and remains Australia's oldest company (although known as the Westpac Bank, an abbreviation of Western Pacific, since 1982). In 1850 the Bank had been incorporated as a corporation under its own Bank of New South Wales Act of the NSW Parliament, after which it began a program of opening branches, reaching 37 by 1861. By the turn of the twentieth century there were several branches in Sydney, including this one in Pitt Street.

The Arms are a variation on the usual Advance Australia Arms. The cross and stars are omitted, although the cross is implied by the four quarterings, and in the two lower quarters the symbols of a cow and an anchor are not usually found in a representation of an Advance Australia Arms. Perhaps they reflect the business interests of the Bank in the beef and shipping industries? The Bank of NSW was granted its own coat of arms in 1931, which includes some of the elements in this design.

The stone appears to be a type of granite or trachyte, and the carving retains its crispness after some one hundred years of weathering and city pollution. The date of carving and the identity of the sculptor are unknown, although it may be possible to attribute it to William Macintosh (see Commonwealth Bank pilaster, 1913)

Some questions to research:

  1. Does the use of a version of the Advance Australia Arms imply some sort of 'national' aspirations by the Bank?
  2. What might the representation of the kangaroo suggest about the sculptor's knowledge of kangaroos?

Image source: Bruce Baskerville, Heritage Branch, 12 July 2003

Page last updated: 01 September 2012