Launch of Castlemaine clay currency to bolster the town’s economy

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Castlemaine in central Victoria, famous for the gold that was mined in the area in the mid-1800s, might now be known for a much less exotic source of wealth: clay.

A group of artists from the city have launched their own clay currency to be used as part of an economic experiment.

Named “the silver wattle” after the native plant, approximately $10,000 of the mint was created in two denominations.

One version is printed with the number 1, which is equivalent in value to $10, and the other bears a 5, which is worth $50.

Artist Dale Cox said the idea was to keep money spent locally instead of being siphoned off by corporations or funneled into foreign bank accounts.

“Not from a top-down authority, like a queen or a state authority, but from the ground under our feet and from the environment in which we are embedded, from where we come from.”

Artist Dale Cox uses the silver acacia coin to buy lunch pies from Johnny Baker in Castlemaine.(Sarah Lawrence: ABC Central Victoria)

Companies support the new currency

Eight companies have joined the economic experiment – ​​including The Taproom, Cabosse and Feve Chocolates and Tortoise Espresso – to recognize the coins as legitimate currency.

Johnny Baker, who runs a bakery in Castlemaine where the coins can be used, said he liked the concept and wanted to support the project.

Mr Cox said the artists were not concerned about the challenges they might face from Australia’s economic authorities.

“The project is on such a small scale and it’s really just an artistic experiment, that no huge amount of revenue will be lost to the taxman and it’s really just a trial run,” Mr Cox said. .

seated woman holding silveryr acacia plant and coins in her hand, smiling
Artist Jodi Newcombe is also involved in a Castlemaine exhibition based on the idea of ​​currency. (Sarah Lawrence: ABC Central Victoria)

“Ecology and economy”

Castlemaine is not the first place in the world to experiment with its own currency, but most places use digital currency or banknotes.

Artist Jodie Newcombe said the pieces were created from locally acquired clay.

“It’s very durable, we have some of the ancient relics of human civilization in clay,” she said.

“So it may look flimsy, but it’s actually very strong.”

Ms Newcombe, an environmental economist by trade, said she was delighted to be part of a project which has sparked many conversations around the idea of ​​money.

clay coins with 1 and 5 on top and an acacia print on the back.
Clay coins can be purchased and used by residents of Castlemaine.(ABC Central VictoriaSarah Lawrence)

“It really brings together the idea of ​​ecology and economy, in the poetic sense of clay coins, but the idea that we need diversity in our system,” she said.

“Because currently we have a monopoly of money and that is a dangerous thing.

She said any type of monoculture would be weak and noted that there had been many financial crashes.

“So the local currencies around the world, there are about 300 of them, create diversity and a kind of resilience at the local level,” she said.

Mr Cox, Mrs Newcombe, together with ‘clay coin’ artist Ann Ferguson are hosting an exhibition based on the idea of ​​currency for the next two weeks in Castlemaine.

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