Either side of the entrance to Old Parliament House, at the roofline, are the coats of arms of Britain (top photo) and Australia (bottom photo). The Australian system of government is based on the Westminster system,and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 as a result of an agreement among six self-governing British colonies, which became the six states, so there is a strong British influence.
The Australian coat of arms consists of a shield depicting the badges of the six Australian states, symbolising the federation of the states. The seven-pointed gold star above the shield represents the six states of the Commonwealth with the seventh point representing Australia’s territories.
The supporters are native Australian animals: the red kangaroo and the emu. It is thought the kangaroo and emu were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forward, reflecting a common belief that neither animal can move backwards easily (actually they can, but rarely do).
Usually the coat of arms is depicted on a background of sprays of golden wattle with a scroll beneath it containing the word ‘Australia’, although these elements are not part of the official design.
The badges of the six states are:
- New South Wales—Golden lion on a red St George’s Cross on a silver background (usually depicted white), with an eight-pointed star on each extremity of the cross.
- Victoria—White Southern Cross, beneath an Imperial Crown, on a blue background.
- Queensland—light blue Maltese cross with an Imperial Crown at its centre, on a white background.
- South Australia—the white-backed magpie, wings outstretched, on a yellow background.
- Western Australia—Black swan swimming, on a yellow background.
- Tasmania—Red lion on a white background.
[Information from http://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/coat_of_arms.html]