The Badge

The Logo

The arms

The Achievement  

The Seal



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The European discovery of New South Wales was made by Captain James Cook during his 1770 survey along the unmapped eastern coast of the Dutch-named continent of New Holland, now Australia. In his original journal(s) covering the survey, in triplicate to satisfy Admiralty Orders, Cook first named the land "New Wales". However, in the copy held by the Admiralty, he "revised the wording" to "New South Wales".

The colony of New South Wales was founded in 1788. It originally comprised a larger area of the Australian mainland also including Lord Howe Island, New Zealand, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land. During the 19th century, large areas were separated to form the British colonies of Tasmania, South Australia, New Zealand, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory (1863).

The first British settlement was made by what is known in Australian history as the First Fleet; this was led by Captain Arthur Phillip, who assumed the role of governor of the settlement on arrival in 1788 until 1792.




A seal for the colony was adopted in 1790 and was followed by a series of nine other seals. Being a colony of Great Britain the heraldic devices of the king of Great Britain were valid in the colony. Something of a local heraldry was introduced at the beginning of the 19th century and was folllowed by the adoption of a flag and its badge. In 1906 an achievement was granted by King Edward VII. This achievement is used until the present day. It replaces the royal achievement, the royal arms remaining the same.


The Bowman Flag of ca1806



The Bowman Flag was made about 1806, and is the earliest known example of heraldry designed in colonial NSW. It was reputedly painted by the women of the Bowman household at Richmond on material from Mrs Bowman's wedding dress.

The commonly accepted story is that the flag was made to commemorate Lord Nelson's famous naval victory at Trafalgar (off the coast of Spain) (Concise Guide), and that it was made by Mary Bowman. A recent examination by a State Library curator, however, has suggested that it was painted by a professional painter (Woodford 2005: 19).

Consideration of the blazon contributes to understanding the flag and its coat of arms. The overall form of the Arms, especially the second motto above the shield, is typical of Scottish and French heraldry. The Arms of a Scottish clan chief are denoted by such a second motto or cri-de-guerre (war cry). The elongated shape of the shield is typical of 18th century British heraldry. The three flowers represent England, Ireland and Scotland, but are not grafted onto a single stem as in the Union Badge of Great Britain adopted in 1801 but remain separate, although gathered together in a posy. The border around the shield is characteristic of Scottish heraldry, although not unknown in English and Irish practice.

The supporters are the feature that usually attracts the most attention: a kangaroo and an emu on a grassy field, both alert and apparently watching something in the distance. They are the earliest known use of indigenous animals in Australian heraldry - and the grass the earliest use of indigenous plants.

The Scottish forms evident in the design strongly suggest the hand of a Scottish heraldic artist, and that the Arms were prepared for a person of some standing in the community. The shield shape and the separate floral emblems suggest that the artist had left Britain before 1801 and was not familiar with the official symbolism adopted after the Union with Ireland. John Bowman and his family had arrived in NSW in 1798 from East Lothian in Scotland, which is consistent with these Scots influences, and settled at Richmond in the Hawkesbury District. The rural character of the Hawkesbury is perhaps alluded to by the long grass.

The supporters clearly place the Arms in NSW, but what are they watching for? The two mottoes have lead all previous analysts of these Arms to attribute them to the news of Nelson's victory, but there is no certain evidence of this. Perhaps the emu and kangaroo are watching for other disturbances in the colony? The entwined floral emblems suggest an equality of status between the English, Irish and Scots settlers of the Hawkesbury, united (as the cri-de-guerre cries out) and expected to do their duty. But united against what, or whom?

Argent, a rose, shamrock and thistle all slipped proper and a bordure gules;

Supporters: dexter an emu statant to the dexter regardant contourné, sinister a kangaroo regardant, both proper;

Motto: In an scroll over the same the word 'Unit'y; and on a compartment below the arms 'ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY' with a field of grasses [1]


The Badge



Badge: Argent, a cross Gules, charged with four eight-pointed stars and in fess point a lion passant guardant Or.

Granted 15th of February 1876


The Badge of New South Wales as adopted in 1876

In 1869 the Imperial authorities in London required all colonial authorities to adopt and use on naval ships a badge or emblem that would be placed on a blue ensign to identify the particular colony or territory that a vessel belonged to. In 1874 the order was re-issued, and the badge shown above was adopted in New South Wales in 1876.

The Colonial Naval Defence Act 1865 allowed the British colonies to acquire their own naval vessels, and in accordance with the 1869 requirement the above badge was prepared. It was designed by the NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet with Captain Hixson, the President of the Marine Board. Captain Hixson argued for a design based upon the white ensign of the Royal Navy (essentially a red cross on a white field). This reflected not only Hixson's former naval service, but also the main source of military defence for the colony in the Pacific Ocean where other European powers were seeking out new colonies. It also commemorated the naval service of Captain Cook and many of the early governors of NSW.

The four stars represent the Southern Cross which mariners used to navigate in the southern hemisphere. The stars had been used in the emblems of NSW since the 1820s, and in its heraldry since the granting of the Arms of the Church of England Diocese of Australia in 1836.

The Lion was taken from the several lions on the Royal Arms, and designated by Barnet as the 'Lion in the South', either an allusion to the new British society developing in the south land, or a further representation of British naval power in the South Seas, or both.

The Badge of NSW thus combined elements of Royal, naval and colonial symbolism, satisfying the requirements of the Imperial naval authorities and giving NSW its first emblem of public authority free of any obvious convict associations. It remains the State Badge today, and is depicted on the State Flag (State Arms, Symbols and Emblems Act 2004, Schedule 2).

blazon: Argent, on a cross gules a lion passant guardant or, between four stars of eight points also or (Silver with, on a red cross, a golden lion walking forwards while looking at the viewer, between four gold stars each with eight points). [2]


The Logo




The logo of the Government of New South Wales introduced 2010 shows a Waratah flower and the legend NSW Government. It doest not replace the achievement but is more or less a successor of the badge.


The Waratah (Telopea speciosissima) is the floral emblem of New South Wales, a large (10-12cm across) and spectacular scarlet flower growing in the bush in clumps of tall stems. The Waratah is protected by law.


The Arms


Soon after its adoption the badge was used as a charge of a coat of arms. These arms were considered to be the arms of New South Wales in several heraldic compilations. After 1897 the field was tinctured Azure instead of Argent


Arms of New South Wales

In a German armorial, 1895

1d. Stamp 1897

Showing the crowned arms of New South Wales


Arms: Azure, a cross Gules charged  with a lion passant guardant Or and four mullets Argent.

Crown: The Crown of St. Edward.



The Achievement


In the first years of the colony the Royal British achievement was used.


Detail of the New South Wales crest on the title page of the Crown Lands Act 1861.

Showing the royal achievement of Queen Victoria (1837-1901)


Royal Achievement of Queen Victoria and her successors


This Coat of Arms was originally located above the Royal or Governor's chair in the Legislative Council Chambers from 1856 to 2006. It has been replaced with a New South Wales Coat of Arms. It has similar symbols of royalty and the same inscriptions as the other Royal Coat of Arms on display in the Jubilee Room. It represents the supreme authority in Australia and consequently in New South Wales before being replaced by the authority of the Federation of Australia in 1986. [3]


On 11 November 1906 King Edward VII granted New South Wales an achievement. On the arms the cross has a silver rim and is on a blue field. In the four quarters are the symbols of argiculture and catle growing: a fleece for the growing of sheep and a garb for agriculture. In the shield is a rising sun radiant, represnting the motto ORTA RECENS QUAM PURA NITES (Newly Risen how Bright thou Shinest). The supporters, a lion and a kangaroo symbolize the British past and the Australian continent. The royal warrant reads:


Arms: Azure, a cross Argent voided Gules, charged in the centre chief point with a Lion passant guardant, and on each member with a mullet of eight points Or between in the first and fourth quarters a Fleece of the last banded of the second, and in the second and third quarters a Garb also Or; And for the Crest On a Wreath of the Colours A Rising Sun each Ray tagged with a flame of fire proper; And for the Supporters, On the dexter side A Lion rampant guardant and on the sinister side A Kangaroo both Or, together with this Motto, “Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites. (newly risen, how bright thou shinest).

By R.W. 11th of October 1906, received Sydney February 1907


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay


The Seal


Wedgewood's Etruria or Sydney Cove medallion of 1789,

inspiration for Great Seal of New South Wales issued in 1790.

This medallion commemorated the landing of the First Fleet in New South Wales in January 1788, and was made from white clay dug in Sydney Cove and sent by Governor Phillip to Sir Joseph Banks. The design, with its four classical figures, inspired the composition of the first Great Seal of NSW approved by King George III in 1790 (Gullick 1907: 31).

When Governor Phillip sent the clay to Sir Joseph Banks he wrote that this was the clay …with which the Natives mark themselves, it is found in great plenty, a few feet below the surface ... the people use it to cover their Houses. Banks in turn sent the clay to his friend Josiah Wedgwood, who made a series of medallions marking the founding of the colony. The design shows `Hope encouraging Art and Labour under the influence of Peace, to pursue the employments necessary to give security and happiness to an infant colony'.

The medallions were made at Wedgwood's pottery at Etruria in Warwickshire, England. The pottery was named Etruria after the Etruscans of pre-Roman Italy who, in late 18th and early 19th century Europe, were romanticised and idealised as unspoilt by Greek or Roman civilization, living in harmony with nature. These pre-Imperial Etruscans were compared to the indigenous peoples of New South Wales and the Pacific Islands, who were called by the French philosopher Rousseau (among others) “Noble Savages” in allusion to the supposed similarities of their lifestyles with the those of the idealised Etruscans. [4]


The First (or Territorial) Seal of New South Wales of 1790 - 1817


On the 4th August 1790 King George III approved the design of a seal for the government of NSW and the adjacent Pacific Islands. This example was used to seal a land title document in 1792.

The seal shows on its obverse a design that alludes to the intended redemptive qualities of the convict settlement, and was described in a Royal Warrant for the seal as follows:

Convicts landed at Botany Bay; their fetters taken off and received by Industry, sitting on a bale of goods with her attributes, the distaff [a spindle for spinning wool or flax], bee-hive, pick axe, and spade, pointing to an oxen ploughing, the rising habitations, and a church on a hill at a distance, with a fort for their defence. Motto: Sic fortis etruria crevit [So, I think, this is how brave Etruria grew]; with this inscription round the circumference, Sigillum Nov. Camb. Aust. [Seal New South Wales]


'A New Seal', 1791-1817

The seal was received in NSW on HMS Gorgon in September 1791, and immediately began to be used as the official 'signature' of the colonial authorities. The illustration shows a very early example of a wax impress of the seal fixed to a title deed for land granted to ex-convict Edward Varndell by Governor Phillip in February 1792.

The worn appearance of the seal demonstrates not only the passage of time but a shortage of the proper wax for using in the seal matrix (or mould). Governor Phillip complained of this in 1791, and also that he had no official to register land grants. Gullick attributes the 'bumpy' look of many early seals such as this to the wax shortage.

Sealing not only land title documents but also pardons of convict sentences and many other functions, the seal brought to life its symbolism of the convict freed through industry and co-operation. This seal is sometimes referred to as the Territorial Seal, and was replaced by the second seal in 1817. [5]


The Third Great Seal of NSW, 1827-1832

This illustration shows the Third Great Seal issued during the reign of King George IV. This seal was attached to an official document commissioning John Dight as a Coroner in NSW, dated on the King's Birthday (4th June) 1828. [6]


The Sixth Great Seal 1870 - 1905

The Sixth Great Seal adopted in 1870 discarded all references to NSW's convict past and represented a fundamental break in the colony's official symbols. In place of the convict emblems, the self-governing, gold-enriched colony was represented by a golden fleece between two Prince of Wales' feathers on a background of nine stars beneath the Royal Arms. This was the first use of the golden fleece in the official symbols of NSW, and the first direct symbolic association with old Wales.

The new design followed the ‘Newfoundland pattern’, and had been requested by Colonial Secretary Charles Cowper in 1869 (Gullick, 1907:29). Cowper had been a leading figure in the colony’s anti-transportation movement. At one level the golden fleece represented the colony’s wealth in gold and wool, and the feathers a pun on its namesake. However, the combination also alludes to an ancient order of Pan-European chivalry and the even more ancient Principality of Wales.

The design of the Sixth Seal gave the colony an allegorical new history: beneath starry skies, freed of the stains of convictism and imbued with mythical and noble Celtic origins, almost alluding to a pre-colonial (or pre-English) lineage and a status under the Crown that was separate rather than subordinate.

Gullick attributed a cardinal importance to the Sixth Seal: it was the first time the convict emblems were not included, and the colonial seals had evolved to reflect this (1914: 19). The convict emblems were finally omitted, and with them went all reminders of the convict stain (1907: 10). The Sixth Seal shows a NSW that is culturally distinctive, if still politically subordinate. Analogies with the constitutional position and cultural separateness of old Wales are strongly suggested: the seal symbolises a direct relationship between the Crown and NSW that was reinforced everytime it was used. However, whether all references to convictism had been removed depends upon how deeply one reads the layers of allusion. [7]


The Great Seal of New South Wales.


shown here is the ninth great seal, and was used during the reign of King George VI between 1937 and 1952.


The design follows the standard pattern set by the 8th Great Seal adopted early in the reign of King George V in 1912 with the Royal Arms above the State Arms. The representation of the shield in the State Arms follows the usual forms, although the coronet (or is it a 'shocked' mane?) on the lion supporter is not referred to in the blazon for the Arms, and the artistry evident in the kangaroo legs and tail is a little unusual. Satisfactorily depicting the kangaroo supporting the NSW Coat of Arms seems to have been an ongoing design issue for heraldic artists during the 20th century. [8]






Sleeve Patch



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© Hubert de Vries 2006-10-16. Updated 2014-07-29



[1]  Image Source: State Library of NSW, Digital a928642 State Library of NSW, Picman

[2] From:   Seals, Badges, and Unofficial Arms. Image Source: Gullick 1907: 10-13

[3] See Australia: Heraldry.

[4] Ibid. Image Source: State Library of NSW, Digital a928587 State Library of NSW, Picman

[5] Ibid. Image Source: State Library of NSW, Digital a1316004h State Library of NSW, Picman

[6] Ibid. Image Source: State Library of NSW, Digital a1328002 State Library of NSW, Picman

[7] Ibid. Image Source: State Library of NSW, GPO 1 - 35182 State Library of NSW, Picman

[8] Ibid. Image Source: State Library of NSW, GPO 3 - 35661, State Library of NSW, Picman