Colonial Heritage Emerging Identity

This stamp issue is the second in a four-year series titled Colonial Heritage, developed to commemorate Australia’s philatelic history. It focuses on emerging colonial identity in Australia.

While once colonists had defined themselves by their cultural proximity to Britain, the maturity of Australian-born generations, temporal distance, economic growth and political development all helped shape a sense of distinctiveness from Britain. The colonies’ growing self-confidence was expressed through their readiness to grasp and mirror local symbols, such as flora and fauna. Queen Victoria would continue to feature in stamp designs throughout the 19th century, but increasingly she shared this small visual space with a constellation of local images. This stamp issue represents that shift in colonial thinking, reflecting a greater sense of belonging in the “new” homeland.

Kangaroo and Lyrebird
The kangaroo and the lyrebird originally featured in stamps marking the 1888 centenary of New South Wales, the first adhesive commemorative stamp issue to be released worldwide. The kangaroo, flanked by the Sydney flannel flower, was in a one shilling (1/-) brown design; the lyrebird, bordered with waratahs and honeysuckle, was in an eight pence (8d) magenta design. The other Australian colony to feature a kangaroo was South Australia, using it in a blue two-and-a-half (2½d) stamp design released in 1894.

Black Swan and Southern Cross
The Black Swan has a strong place in Western Australia’s philatelic heritage. It remained the central motif of the colony’s stamps from its first issue, in 1854, until stamp production was transferred to the Commonwealth in 1902.

The Southern Cross featured on many Australian colonial stamps, the first of which was the five shilling (5s) New South Wales medallion stamp of 1861. This resonant symbol of the south also appeared in the designs of one Western Australian stamp, six Victorian stamps and four New South Wales designs, including stamp duty and charity designs.