The Royal Australian Mint has launched the second limited edition commemorative coin in the Star Dreaming series, an initiative that illustrates sacred Indigenous Australian astrological stories.
The series pays tribute to Indigenous Australians as the first astronomers to use the stars for navigation and calendars; for tens of thousands of years, the stars have worked as maps, weather predictors and timekeepers for First Nations peoples.
Released on September 3, the Star Dreaming – Seven Sisters – 2020 $1 Coloured Silver Uncirculated Coin recognises the significance of the Seven Sisters, one of the brightest and most renowned star clusters in the constellation Taurus.
The Seven Sisters tells the story of seven sisters fleeing to the sky to escape a man who wants to take one of the sisters as his wife.
The Yamaji people of Western Australia’s Murchison region refer to the Seven Sisters as Nyarluwarri in the Wajarri language.
When Nyarluwarri sits low on the horizon at sunset, Yamaji people know that emu eggs are ready for harvesting. The star cluster is also used by Yamaji people to predict seasonal rainfall by observing how bright or faded it appears at certain times of the year.
The coin was developed in collaboration with Wajarri-Noongar artist Christine Jugarnu Collard, whose artwork depicts the seven sisters fleeing.
The series launched in May 2020 with the release of the Emu in the Sky – 2020 $1 Coloured Silver Uncirculated Coin.
Both coins within the series feature artwork created by Indigenous artists, with Wiradjuri artist Scott Towney capturing the silhouette of the Emu in the Sky constellation in the first release.
The story of the emu constellation varies, but one version from the Northern Territory tells the tale of a blind man banishing the spirit of the emu to the sky after his wife died trying to collect its eggs.
The orientation of the emu constellation changes throughout the year—it can be seen sitting or running, and is used to indicate emu hunting time.
Royal Australian Mint CEO Ross MacDiarmid said he hopes the coins would serve as a tangible reminder of the importance of preserving Indigenous stories in Australia.
“The release of these special coins ensure Australians have access to important stories from Australia’s Indigenous history,” he said.
The Star Dreaming – Emu in the Sky and Seven Sisters – 2020 $1 Coloured Silver Uncirculated Coins are now available for purchase. The coins can be accessed through the Royal Australian Mint’s Authorised Dealers, the Mint’s website or their Contact Centre (1300 652 020).
By Imogen Kars