The REAL story of the man in your wallet.

How many of you have ever looked at the Aboriginal man depicted on our $2 coin and just thought to yourselves, “Just another depiction of an Aboriginal to honour the first inhabitants of our country”?

According to the Royal Australian Mint the design brief for the $2 coin called for “a representation of the head and shoulders of a traditional Australian Aboriginal, a representation of the Southern Cross and a representation of Australian Flora.”

Although the design was not intended to depict any particular person, the face on the coin was designed by Horst Hahne, based on a drawing of Gwoya Jungarai by artist Ainslie Roberts.

Jungarai stands proudly beneath the Southern Cross, his long beard flowing and powerful chest crossed with tribal scars.  But just who was he and why was he chosen to appear on the currency.

Jungarai was born about 1895 in the Tanami Desert, approximately 200 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.  He was a Waripiri-Anmatyerre man who had a wife and three sons.  He died in 1965.  But his face will never be forgotten while the $2 coin remains in circulation.

In 1928 he survived a massacre near the Coniston cattle station in Central Australia, but many of his relatives were butchered in the atrocity.  Whilst official records show 31 people were killed, historians believe the number of men, women and children slaughtered could be up to 110.

Also known as Gwoya Tjungurrayi and Gwoya Djungaraim, Jungarai trapped dingoes and made and sold boomerangs.  It has been claimed that when asked how much he charged for handcrafts or odd jobs, Jungarai would answer “One pound, boss’.  He became best known outside his people as “One Pound Jimmy”.

Jungarai caught the world’s attention after a 1935 photograph by Roy Dunstan appeared on the cover of Walkabout Magazine, a publication featuring stories about travel, culture and geography, in 1936.

International recognition brought tourists to Central Australia seeking Jungarai’s autograph.  Newspaper reports state Jungarai once shaved off his beard to be less recognisable.

His picture again graced the cover of Walkabout in 1950, the same year Jungarai became the first Aboriginal person to be featured on an Australian postage stamp.  This brought him international recognition.

In March 1952, the Centralian Advocate stated ‘One Pound Jimmy’ was possibly the ‘most publicised Aborigine in Australia’.

More than 30 years later Jungarai’s face became known to new generations when his likeness was chosen to appear on the ‘reverse’, or back, of a coin to replace the $2 note. 

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