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Commercial Education Society of Australia

Condensed from an address to members of Council and their guests, including the Society’s most recent Diplomates. December, 1969.

The Grant of Arms
by the late A. (Peter) Forster

These arms have been assigned to this Society by the Earl Marshal England on the advice of his Garter Kings of Arms and you are provided with a facsimile illustration of the original document.

The history of the grant begins some two to three years ago when the College of Arms made its first enquiries about the origin of the Society and the history of its development. The grant of supporters is not easily obtained and it was not therefore surprising when in October, 1967, after a long process of enquiry the President was again informed that, although there was now no doubt about the generally favourable grounds for a grant of arms, the question of a grant of supporters to those arms was still under consideration by the Garter Kings of Arms who would, in due course, advise the Earl Marshal of their recommendation.

The period of suspense was fortunately not prolonged. In November 1967 the communication from the College of Arms ran in terms of:

“I am delighted to be able to tell you that my final submission for a grant of supporters, as well as arms and a badge, has been successful, and the Garter Kings of Arms will now grant supporters to the Arms of the Society.”

In October 1968, the final design was settled between the Society and the College of Arms and, in terms of a letter dated 15 November, 1969, the President was informed that the Kings of Arms had approved the grant of arms and that it was now in order for us to use and to enjoy them. We awaited receipt of the sealed instrument as evidence of the grant.

Development and Growth

The crest has a supporting set of columns and a rising sun. The portal or doorway is the gateway to success. The doorway to knowledge. The rising sun in the background is associated with the Australian sunburst which is a part of the Australian Army insignia. And, of course, the rising sun is also emblematical of development, of growth, and of the hope of success. The Parthenon is represented too with a reference not only to perfection of form, but also to perfection of knowledge; the columns are suggested to us as symbolical of debit and credit and of the double entry process.

As far as the supporters are concerned, the traditionalist members of the Society will be pleased to know that the supporters were granted and chosen by the College of Arms. They were not suggested by the Society; they are Secretary Birds (Sagittarius Serpentarius). They are a species of hawk, they stand nearly five feet high; the association with typing and shorthand, and the role of the person who holds these skills, is I think, very aptly represented by them. They also suggest a natural dignity, a vigour, almost a ferociousness, in defence of their rights and in protection of their territory. As far as the chequer is concerned — the shield background — this is a reference to a chessboard, to a skilfully played game and the cry of “check.” There is an association with the function of checking and, through a series of peculiar but explicable changes in the Middle English forms of the word, we get a corrupted word: “exchequer” where the “ex” is someone's misreading- or mishearing of an “X” for the earlier “S” of the Norman-French term.

This board is traditionally associated with the accounting function in the heraldic sphere, and also with the office of accountant or treasurer. The ermine “spot” connotes “of the law”; we are reminded that we live in a society under the rule of law and also that there is a link not only between the law and the art and practice of accounting, but also between the law and the formative processes of the law in the reporting of parliamentary debates and of the proceedings in our courts.

The book as a symbol is fairly clear; a means, a link with, and a path to knowledge through study. The inscription is a clear reference to Pacioli who was the author of the first printed text dealing with accountancy — a summa, or kind of encyclopaedia, which dealt also with aspects of mathematical knowledge (Pacioli was the first professor of mathematics in an Italian university). This summa was printed in Venice in 1494. Because a section of the work dealt with double-entry bookkeeping practice and procedure, accountants like to speak of it as the first printed text on double-entry bookkeeping. That is substantially true, but it is not all of the truth, for, if you looked at the original work, you would find that Pacioli was not concerned with professional distinctions or with drawing fine lines between the parts of an integrated field of knowledge. He did not speak of bookkeeping to the exclusion of other matters.

Pacioli begins by speaking of establishing a business and of the things that are necessary to make a good merchant (more things, he says, than are necessary to make a doctor of laws i). He speaks of credit on the basis of a good name, and notes that, of the things that are needful for success, one of the most important is a goodly supply of capital. He speaks of the taking of inventory and of the ordering of one's affairs; of accounts, yes, but also of a merchant's correspondence and of the need for care, for accuracy, and for checking (auditing) the records. All of this accords very well with the traditional interests and the development of this Society. The title of the tract or chapter dealing with these things is, of course, in a 15th century dialect, but it means roughly, “of reckonings and of writings” or, in modern terms, “of accounts and correspondence.” We have rendered this in the more acceptable modern Latin form of the inscription you may read on the open found book: De computatis et scriptis.


Pacioli speaks of much business being done by solemn undertakings, but still verbally — “on the word of the Royal Merchant,” he says.

The London Stock Exchange, to convey the broker's obligation to honour verbal contracts employs the motto: “meum verbum meum pactum” or “my word is my bond.” The same idea in a Chinese script or ideograph, would portray the symbol for a man standing by (the symbol for) his word — the whole bounded, hut not quite closed. That is to say, “I am not bound in law or in any absolute sense to do this thing. I freely choose to do that which is right (according to my word).”

In this same spirit of asserting that action and decisions should proceed on the basis of right principles, in the belief that some attention needs to be given to standards, to values, and to ways of aiming at rightly ordered judgments, we were led, not only to the subject of Business Policies and Ethics as part of the Diploma course, but also to the central idea expressed in the phrase: “I exhort you to walk worthily as befits men called to such a vocation as yours.” Out of this comes the shorter version: “walk worthily” or, in modern Latin, “Digne Ambulate” which Is the motto now incorporated in the arms of the Society.

We hope it will inspire and stimulate our diplomates in their work, and remain something of which they may be proud throughout their careers.

Commonwealth-Wide Activity

There are only two features remaining which I should comment upon. The first of these is the eight-pointed star which the College of Arms has taken from the arms of the State of New South Wales as a reminder of our original formation in this State. The other is the particular design and presentation of the knight's helmet as it rests on the central shield. This in turn is linked with the grant of supporters to the arms now assigned to this Society by the Earl Marshal of England on the advice of the Garter Kings of Arms. The helmet with closed visor is symbolical of the original patronage of Viscount de L’Isle as Governor-General; his private status as a Chartered Accountant is indicated by the checker pattern and the whole goes on to reflect and to respect the subsequent patronage of Lord Casey in that office and the present patronage of Sir Paul Hasluck, the present Governor. General and representative of the Queen in Australia. This serves also as a reminder that the Society's activities extend, not only to every State in the Commonwealth of Australia, but also to overseas territories and to other countries.

These arms have the richness of colour of royal blue and gold. The shield or chequer has a white ground (with black, “spots”) and blue in the matching squares. The birds are drawn and coloured from nature in shades of light grey, to blue, to black. The wattle is also coloured from nature. It is the species Acacia Baileyana, a really beautiful golden wattle with fluffy florets and a feathery fern-like leaf.

The whole, an attractive and inspiring end-result, has been achieved by dint of much effort over the past three years and with tremendous help and co-operation from the Heralds and artiste of the College of Arms. This Society is sensitive and appreciative of the very great honour accorded to it in this grant of arms and supporters. It is a very rare honour indeed. I know that Mr. President himself, and all of the members of this Society, are pleased and encouraged in their work by this signal honour and mark of recognition for their Society. Having merited them, let us bear them always with dignity and honour. Let us ourselves, “walk worthily.”

© Copyright CESA November 2012