Life sentences: The change in your pocket

DR KAREN FOX explores the stories behind the change in your pocket.

Inspired by a recent trip to the Royal Australian Mint, where I discovered how commemorative coins are created, I've been exploring that heavy collection of shrapnel in my bag with fresh interest.

I've been fascinated by Australia's large variety of commemorative coins since I arrived from New Zealand as a postgraduate and found a coin remembering the centenary of women's suffrage in my change.

Like that one, many of the commemorative coins produced by the Mint mark the anniversaries of historic events, or recall significant moments in the nation's history.

The Bicentenary saw a special 50c piece, and the centenary of the founding of Canberra a unique 20c coin.

In 2001 a range of 20c, 50c and $1 coins marked one hundred years since Federation.

The life stories of many of the key figures involved in these events - from women's suffrage campaigner Vida Goldstein to 'Father of Federation' Henry Parkes - are found in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB).

Not only events but also individual lives have been celebrated with commemorative coins.