Note-able figure: David Unaipon, the Ngarrindjeri man on the $50

A hundred and forty-six years after his birth, one of the great Australians has had a facelift.

An updated portrait of Ngarrindjeri inventor David Unaipon features on the nation's new $50 note, which will be released into circulation tomorrow.

The new note's design also includes Ngarrindjeri shields; a black swan, Mr Unaipon's ngatji or totem animal; and representations of miwi, the Ngarrindjeri people's spiritual connection to country and waters, and navel cord exchange by artist Muriel Van Der Byl.

An image of the Raukkan church still features on the note as well, though absent are blueprints of the shearing mechanism Mr Unaipon invented and a quote of his which appeared on the old $50 note: "As a full-blooded member of my race I think I may claim to be the first – but I hope not the last – to produce an enduring record of our customs, beliefs and imaginings".

As well as registering numerous patents for inventions, which earned him a reputation as Australia's answer to Leonardo Da Vinci, Mr Unaipon predicted the development of the helicopter based on the aerodynamics of the boomerang.

He was also the first published Aboriginal author.

Ngarrinjderi Regional Authority chair Derek Walker said it was a source of great pride to his community that a man from Raukkan was on the nation's currency.

"It's immeasurable, some of that positive-ness that comes out of acknowledging a man of his capacity and the fact he's Ngarrindjeri," he said.

"When he would have been classed among the flora and fauna, I imagine, to assert himself at that time would have been an incredible effort."

He recalled stories from his mother-in-law about Mr Unaipon's sermons at Raukkan, delivered in very correct, high English almost up until his death in 1967.

The other side of the new $50 retains the image of Edith Cowan, the first female member of an Australian parliament.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is updating each of the nation's bank notes to ensure they remain among the safest, most secure and most difficult to counterfeit in the world.

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