Culture and heritage


A rising sun each ray tagged with a flame

Blazon: Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours a Rising Sun each Ray tagged with a Flame of fire proper (on a blue and white wreath a golden rising sun with orange flames on the tip of each sun ray).

The rising sun crest was taken from the crest used on the first Advance Australia Arms in c1821, and consistently since then. It also alludes to a "Rise and Shine" motto that was prevalent in the early colonial period, and perpetuates a later term of endearment for NSW as "Sunny New South Wales". Gullick also recalled the mid-19th century poetry of William Wentworth who wrote in praise of Australia as the successor in the south to Britain:

May all thy glories, in another sphere,
Relume and shine more brightly still than here!
The rising sun was also a popular motif at this time in architecture, with many Federation-era buildings featuring such patterns in decorative gables.

Gullick's initial depiction of the rising sun crest as a simple semi-circle with radiating straight lines was not acceptable to the College of Arms in London. They pointed out that such a crest was already being used on the Arms of a private person in England and, as a principle function of a coat of arms is to distinguish one person or corporation from another, the College suggested two changes to clearly distinguish the crest: the rays could alternate straight and wavy, and the tip of each ray could be embellished with little flames. The College did not state any particular number of rays, although a convention arose of depicting nine such alternating rays.

Depictions of the sun and the rising sun have been used in many cultures over time to symbolise both power (usually a full sun with a face, known in heraldry as a Sun in his Splendour) and the future (usually a rising sun). The allusions to the future and to hope in the future of a rising sun symbol can be seen in the emblems of many New World societies as well as in ancient cultures such as Japan.

Gullick accepted the suggested changes from the College, and they were depicted in the final version of the NSW Coat of Arms.

Some questions to research:

  1. What are some other cultures in which the rising sun is used in heraldry and other symbols and emblems?
  2. How widespread is the symbolism of the rising sun in the built environment of NSW?
Image source: enclosed with letter, York Herald to Agent General for NSW, 1906
Page last updated: 01 September 2012