The University of Western Australia

University Coat of Arms

Further information

  • UWA Archives Collections
  • Further information on the coat of arms design

The design of the University Coat of Arms evolved over a six-decade period with six known contributors.

Its development can be divided into six stages.

  1. Early design
  2. Rodney Alsop and Wilson Dobbs design 1928
  3. George Kruger Gray design 1929
  4. Gordon Stephenson design
  5. Walker Design for Registered Coat of Arms 1966-72
  6. Gardner (1972) and Leeves (1981) Variants on the official design
  7. Acknowledgements

Early Design

The University Archives holds an outline drawing of a crest that is believed to be an early design for the Coat of Arms. The creator and date created have not yet been identified.


Gardner design

The Gardner version is most commonly used today. However, it is the Walker design that is registered with the College of Arms in London.


Rodney Alsop and Wilson Dobbs design 1928

The motto "Seek Wisdom" originated from the design by Rodney Alsop and Wilson Dobbs. It is interesting to note that at this stage of design the colours red, silver, black and gold feature, and that the books do not hold legible words, only wavy lines.


George Kruger Gray design 1929

In 1929, Professor Whitfeld wrote to the Agent General for Western Australia in London, to solicit George Kruger Gray in designing a better version of the Coat of Arms. Whitfeld wanted to retain the motto "Seek Wisdom", but sought to improve the design of the swan and shape of the shield.

Gray used the Centenary Swan design, and wrote the following description of the Arms:

'Arms: Party chevronwise sable and gold, in the chief two open books having buckles, straps and edges of gold and in the foot a swan all sable.'


Gordon Stephenson design 1963

Gordon Stephenson was asked to redesign the crest for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations in 1963. The banner was re-drawn to balance the "Seek Wisdom" motto.

The major change was to replace the previously meaningless writing on the books with Latin phrases. The book on the right represents the sciences, while the other represents the humanities. The translations are:

'non nisi parendo vincitur' – nature is only mastered by obedience to her laws
'literae humaniores' – the literature that makes man more civilised and humane.


Walker design for registered Coat of Arms 1966-1972

In 1966 the Senate initiated the registration of the Coat of Arms with the College of Arms in London. Lieutenant Colonel R.J.B. Walker, Landcaster Herald and the Register of the College of Arms all contributed to the final design. The registration process was completed in 1972.

The major addition to the design was the inclusion of two hake fish on top of the lamp of learning. The "Seek Wisdom" motto and Stephenson crest were retained.

Blue, green and gold were added to the Coat of Arms to represent the University’s original faculties. Red was also included at the Vice-Chancellor’s request.


Gardner (1972) and Leeves (1981) Variants on the official design

William Gardner was commissioned to design a letterhead version of the shield in 1972.

As this version did not reproduce well in smaller sizes, Ray Leeves was asked to produce a variant logo. However, the Gardner version is the design that is in common use today.



Edgecombe, J. (1991). The long search for a perfect Black Swan. Uninews, 10(30):1-2.
Alexander, F. (1963). Campus at Crawley. Melbourne: Cheshire.
University Archives Coat of Arms and University Crest Pamphlet.

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