Culture and heritage


Miners' Arms

A variation on the Advance Australia Arms: miners' arms of the 1850s

The Advance Australia Arms never had any official status, and they were readily varied and adapted by different groups in the colonial period, as in this example from the goldfields of the 1850s.

The notable variations from the usual form of the Advance Australia Arms are the absence of a cross and stars, although the four quarterings suggest a cross-shape; the placing of the shovel and pick in saltire (or crossed) in the prestigious first and fourth quarters; the introduction of a dolly or cradle (a device for washing ore to separate it from soil) in the second quarter; and of a miner's lamp in the third quarter; the replacement of the rising sun in the crest with what appears to be an earthenware demijohn, which might contain either water or liquor; and the figures of two miners as supporters.

Overall, the choice of the images in this 'Miner's Arms' version of the Advance Australia Arms indicates their use in a community of alluvial miners, operating independently and on a small scale. The image of the Arms is taken from a promissory or bank note printed by Thomas Ham in Victoria about 1853, and gives some indication of how familiar the Advance Australia heraldic imagery was by that time.

Some questions to research:

  1. What might the demijohn in the crest of these Arms suggest about miner's communities in the eastern colonies of the mid-nineteenth century?
  2. What does such a creative adaptation of the Advance Australia Arms suggest about the visual uses of heraldry by particular groups to identify themselves in the nineteenth century?

Image source: Darragh (1990), plate 25

Page last updated: 01 September 2012