The proper use of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms

The proper use of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Government Commonwealth Coat of Arms
Wednesday, 04 March 2020

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Coat of arms

At left: original Coat of Arms (1908 -1912) and at right: current Coat of Arms (1912 to present)

Australia, or more correctly, the Commonwealth of Australia came into existence as a sovereign nation on 1 January 1901.

As a formally recognised nation entity, the Commonwealth of Australia, like most other sovereign nations, needed a recognisable symbol or what today we might call a brand or logo.

The Commonwealth Coat of Arms is the formal symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia and signifies Commonwealth authority and ownership.

It is used by Australian Government departments and agencies, statutory and non-statutory authorities, the Parliament and Commonwealth courts and tribunals.

The current logo was established in 1912 and can be simply called the Arms. When attached to a document, it gives that document official status and the content of the document enjoys the imprimatur of the Commonwealth of Australia.

For more history on the subject, see Commonwealth Coat of Arms.

Proper Usage

The extensive use of social media and the technological ease of altering and using images has made it easier to inadvertently misuse the Arms.

Given its significance as the formal symbol of Australia, it’s important that the Arms only be used as permitted. The Commonwealth Coat of Arms Information and Guidelines set out the permitted uses, including in some limited circumstances, how to go about getting appropriate permission.

A short summary is provided here, but we encourage a more complete examination of the Guidelines, particularly if you intend to use the Arms.

  • The Arms:
    • is not available for general use.
    • should be used with dignity and respect.
    • must not be used on commercial clothing, souvenirs, other day to day items or as a tattoo.
  • The Honours and Symbols Section of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has discretion to grant permission in limited circumstances.
    • These circumstances include for Australian teams competing in international competitions or for educational publications.
  • Departments and government agencies can authorise third parties to use their logo, which incorporates the Arms.
    • These circumstances include acknowledgement of Australian Government funding and support.
  • Federal Members of Parliament and Senators may use the Arms in the course of the duties

The Arms, along with the Australian National Flag, is one of the most recognisable symbols of our nation. How and where it is displayed is of concern to most Australians.

It is therefore, appropriate that its use is controlled and those who seek to apply it to a document or other item, understand that its use without permission may breach the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, the Trade Marks Act 1995 and the Criminal Code Act 1995.