Australia CBDC Tracker

CBDC Information

Economic Information

Monetary Base


Cash Issued




Country Information

Freedom Rankings

Cato and Fraser Human Freedom Index:


Freedom House Index:


Reporters Without Borders Freedom Index:


Australia is in the pilot phase. The Reserve Bank of Australia worked on developing a CBDC in a few different instances over recent years. These efforts involved a CBDC proof of concept with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, Perpetual, and ConsenSys in December 2021; an international CBDC pilot with the Bank for International Settlements from 2021-2022; and a CBDC pilot with the Digital Finance CRC in September 2022.

CBDC History and Development

In 2017, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe delivered a speech titled, “An eAUD?” Although “CBDC” had not yet become a standard term at this time, governor Lowe’s speech clearly describes “a digital form of the Australian dollar” in the context of an increasingly digital economy. Notably, governor Lowe cautioned that the issuance of a CBDC should depend on whether there is both public interest and a public policy case. Neither is clear.

From 2018 to 2019, the Reserve Bank of Australia began technical experimentation on a wholesale CBDC “issued on a private, permissioned Ethereum network.” The proof of concept was used to simulate “the issuance of central bank-backed tokens to commercial banks in exchange for [exchange settlement account] balances, the exchange of these tokens among the commercial banks, and their eventual redemption back to the central bank.”

In 2020, the Reserve Bank of Australia published a bulletin that considered design issues, policy rationales, and the consequences of issuing a retail CBDC. The bulletin notes, “The main conclusion is that the public policy case for issuing a general purpose CBDC in Australia is still to be made. Even though the use of cash for transactions is declining, cash is still widely available and accepted as a means of payment. Households and businesses are also well served by a modern, efficient and resilient payment system that has undergone significant innovation in recent years, including the introduction of the New Payments Platform, a new real-time, 24/7 and data-rich electronic payments system.” The bulletin further noted, “A related issue is the question of who would be allowed to hold the CBDC and how much they could hold. Unlike physical cash, where it is not feasible to control who can hold it and how much they could hold, it would be possible to control these with a CBDC.”

In 2021, the Reserve Bank of Australia published a report on a CBDC proof of concept labeled “Project Atom.” The project was a collaboration with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, Perpetual, and ConsenSys. It primarily served to investigate the use of the distributed ledger technology for the possible issuance of a CBDC. The report ultimately found that “many of these potential benefits of using CBDC for the settlement of tokenised asset transactions could be achieved through the use of existing (‘off-chain’) payment systems.”

From 2021 to 2022, the Reserve Bank of Australia also participated in an international CBDC pilot with the Bank for International Settlements. Referred to as Project Dunbar, the pilot program was designed to explore how to create a single platform that could settle transactions made in CBDCs from different jurisdictions.

The Reserve Bank of Australia launched a CBDC pilot with the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre in September 2022 to investigate the rationale for issuing a CBDC. The pilot in was completed on August 23, 2023. In the final report, the Reserve Bank of Australia said, “Given the many issues that are yet to be resolved, any decision on a CBDC in Australia is likely to be some years away.”

In late 2023, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Michele Bullock said, “what came out of [the CBDC pilots] for us was that we are still not convinced on the retail CBDC side. A lot of the very useful things that came out of the CBDC trial we did … was really that some of these wholesale cases, … and this is why we’re embarking upon this next step of looking at tokenized assets.” So it is expected that future experiments will focus on wholesale CBDCs.

Human Rights and Civil Liberties Concerns

Australia is generally considered a free and open society. For example, according to the U.S. State Department, there were no reports of significant human rights abuses in Australia. However, there is still reason for concern considering the potential adoption of a CBDC could worsen the Australian government’s treatment of protests and the freedom to travel.

Laws to further restrict protests and demonstrations were enacted in recent years, and caught the attention of both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Unfortunately, a CBDC could be used as another tool in this effort. Across the world, governments have often turned to freezing and seizing the money of activists, political rivals, and protestors to undermine the opposition. A CBDC would make such initiatives easier by allowing governments to take direct control of each citizen’s finances.

Australians’ freedom to travel is another concern given Australia maintained one of the strictest quarantine regimes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Human Rights Watch reported that at one time there were more than 43,000 Australian citizens stranded abroad. However, these restrictions did not end at Australia’s borders. Citizens within the country also faced curfews, limits on gatherings, and 5-kilometer travel restrictions. Such restrictions could easily be incorporated into a programmable CBDC where authorities would be alerted by purchases outside of the curfew or accepted travel radius as well as if too many purchases were made in a single location (e.g., a bar or concert venue).

For additional information on concerns regarding violations of human rights and civil liberties, see the following reports by Amnesty International, Financial Tyranny Index, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Privacy International, and the U.S. Department of State. For additional information on concerns regarding the risks of CBDCs, see the following webpage and report by the Cato Institute: The Risks of CBDCs and Central Bank Digital Currency: Assessing the Risks and Dispelling the Myths.

For additional information regarding metrics, the methodology page explains each of the data points and provides their respective sources.