In the Australian state of New South Wales judges have sat under the coat of arms of the British monarchy since the nineteenth century (figure 1). Having been accustomed to seeing this symbol over the course of many years doing research in New South Wales courtrooms I was surprised to notice, during some research into the physical form of courts in 2000, that a different coat of arms had appeared above the bench in a new court building. This was the State arms of New South Wales. This change had been officially introduced into new courtrooms by an executive decision in 1995, in the midst of a controversy over Australian republicanism and allegiance to the British monarchy. Further developments saw a bill supporting the use of the State arms introduced into the New South Wales Parliament in 2002, and the whole matter referred to a parliamentary committee which took public submissions on the subject and reported in December 2002.
This book chapter was originally published as Mohr, R, Enduring Signs and Obscure Meanings: Contested Coats of Arms in Australian Jurisdictions, in Wagner, A, Summerfield, T and Benevides, F (eds) Contemporary Issues of the Semiotics of Law, Oxford, 180-195.