Culture and heritage


Silk Arms, c1821

The earliest Advance Australia Arms, presented to Captain Silk c.1821


This is the oldest known example of the 'Advance Australia' Coat of Arms. The 'Advance Australia Arms' (named because of the motto inscription) became widely used in NSW and the neighbouring colonies by private corporations and individuals. Although they never had any official status, they formed the basis for several official coats of arms, including the NSW Coat of Arms. This representation was reputedly painted for Thomas Silk, the son of the Captain of the Prince of Orange, a convict ship that visited Sydney in 1821.

The Prince of Orange was a frequent visitor to Sydney, being used to transport convicts to NSW and Van Diemen's Land, as well as other cargoes. It arrived in Sydney on one of these voyages in February 1821, discharging convicts that were sent to Parramatta and Liverpool, before proceeding on to Batavia (Jakarta). Why such a representation of the Advance Australia Arms should have been made to Captain Silk at this time is not clear. There are other references to voyages of the Prince of Orange until at least 1847. Thomas Silk, a free settler at Richmond in the Hawkesbury District, arrived and received land there in 1816, and was still there in 1825 (Colonial Secretary's Papers). The connections with Captain Silk are not clear, but the residence of Thomas Silk at Richmond may suggest some connection with the Bowman family (see Bowman Flag).

The artist who painted this representation is not known, although the style of application of paint onto the panel is reminiscent of coach painting. The reverse of the panel appears to have been prepared as a cribbage board.

Quarterly azure and argent, on a cross azure celeste a mullet of six points or between four mullets of six points or, in the first a golden fleece or, in the second a three-masted schooner sails furled at sea proper, in the third a harpoon and anchor in saltire proper, and in the fourth a garb or. Crest: on a wreath of the colours a demi-sun in his splendour. Supporters: dexter an emu statant to the dexter regardant contourné, sinister a kangaroo to the sinister regardant dexter, both proper; Motto: Advance Australia (On a shield of four quarters blue and white is a sky-blue cross with a golden six-pointed star in the centre and a golden six-pointed star on each arm of the cross, and in the first quarter a golden fleece, in the second a three-masted schooner with its sails rolled up, at sea of natural colours, in the third quarter a harpoon and anchor in a diagonal cross in natural colours, and in the fourth quarter a wheatsheaf in gold; Crest: a sun rising in its natural colours; Supporters: on the right an emu standing rightwards and looking over its back leftwards, and on the left a kangaroo standing leftwards and looking over its shoulder rightwards, both in their natural colours; Motto: Advance Australia).

Some questions to research:
  1. What are some of the possibilities that the rising sun in the crest of these Arms might represent or symbolise?
  2. How might the crossed harpoon and anchor indicate an important industry in early colonial NSW?

Image Source: State Library of NSW, Digital a128882 State Library of NSW, Picman

Page last updated: 01 September 2012