Wattle Day

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Woman buying wattle for Wattle Day, Sydney, 1935 SLNSW 81869 Wattle Day.jpg
Woman buying wattle for Wattle Day, Sydney, 1935

Wattle Day is a day of celebration in Australia on the first day of September each year, [1] which is the official start of the Australian spring. This is the time when many Acacia species (commonly called wattles in Australia), are in flower. So, people wear a sprig of the flowers and leaves to celebrate the day.

<i>Acacia</i> Genus of plants

Acacia, commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus of shrubs and trees in the subfamily Mimosoideae of the pea family Fabaceae. Initially, it comprised a group of plant species native to Africa and Australia, with the first species A. nilotica described by Linnaeus.


Although the national floral emblem of Australia is a particular species, named the golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha), any acacia can be worn to celebrate the day.

In a number of countries, plants have been chosen as symbols to represent specific geographic areas. Some countries have a country-wide floral emblem; others in addition have symbols representing subdivisions. Different processes have been used to adopt these symbols – some are conferred by government bodies, whereas others are the result of informal public polls. The term floral emblem, which refers to flowers specifically, is primarily used in Australia and Canada. In the United States, the term state flower is more often used.

The day was originally intended to promote patriotism for the new nation of Australia:

"Wattle Days emerged to prominence in Australia in the early years of the federated nation. They took on some of the national and civic responsibilities for children that [the more formal] Australia Day could not." - Libby Robin [2]

Tasmanian origin, 1838

Black wattle Acacia mearnsii Black Wattle flower (6285463535).jpg
Black wattle Acacia mearnsii

On 1 December 1838, the first Hobart Town Anniversary Regatta was held in Hobart, Tasmania to celebrate the Anniversary of the 17th-century European discovery of the island by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who made the first reported European sighting of the island on 24 November 1642. [3] It was estimated between 5000 - 6000 people attended. In 1853 on August 10 in Launceston, during 'Cessation of Transportation Celebrations' the procession marched under a triumphal arch decorated with wattle blossom. [4]

Hobart City in Tasmania, Australia

Hobart is the capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania. With a population of approximately 240,000, it is the least populated Australian state capital city, and second smallest if territories are taken into account. Founded in 1804 as a British penal colony, Hobart, formerly known as Hobart Town or Hobarton, is Australia's second oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales. Prior to British settlement, the Hobart area had been occupied for possibly as long as 35,000 years, by the semi-nomadic Mouheneener tribe, a sub-group of the Nuennone, or South-East tribe. The descendants of these Aboriginal Tasmanians often refer to themselves as 'Palawa'.

Tasmania island state of Australia

Tasmania is an island state of Australia. It is located 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. The state encompasses the main island of Tasmania, the 26th-largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. The state has a population of around 533,308 as of March 2019. Just over forty percent of the population resides in the Greater Hobart precinct, which forms the metropolitan area of the state capital and largest city, Hobart.

It was suggested that for future regattas, the event should be celebrated by the wearing of a sprig of silver wattle blossom (Acacia dealbata) tied with British Navy blue ribbon. [5] The proposal attracted some ridicule as the silver wattle blooms in August and September and would be unobtainable in November . [6] As a result, the November-flowering black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) was substituted for the regatta. The custom of wearing a sprig of wattle at the regatta persisted until at least 1883. [7]

The theme of wattle in literature, poetry and song took off from the 1860's to the early 1900s. When Adam Lindsay Gordon died in 1870 he was buried 'here the wattle blossoms wave' - a quotation from his poem 'The sick Stockrider'. There were wattle waltzes and you could drink Foster's Wattle beer. [4]

A "Wattle Blossom League" was inaugurated by W. J. Sowden and the South Australian chapter of the Australian Natives' Association in 1890 as a women's branch of the Association. [8] The aim of the 'Wattle Blossom League' was to 'encourage Australian literature and music'. Members should 'at all suitable public assemblies wear a spray of wattle blossom either real or artificial, as a distinctive badge'. Another aim of the league was 'to promote a national patriotic sentiment among the women of Australia'. [4] The last monthly meeting of the Wattle Blossom League was held at Beach's Rooms on 1 June 1893. [9]

The Wattle Club, 1899

The push for the recognition of the nation-wide use of wattle as a symbol of the first day of spring was given momentum by the formation in 1899 of the "Wattle Club" in Victoria. It was initiated by Archibald James Campbell, a leading ornithologist and field naturalist with a particular passion for Australian wattles, of which there are more than 1,000 species. [10] For several years the club organised bush outings on the first day in September specifically for the appreciation of wattles in their natural setting. Campbell was an active member of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria. Their 1904 outing went to the You Yangs and in 1906 they went to the Werribee Gorge. [4]

Wattle Day League, 1909

Golden wattle Acacia pycnantha Acacia pycnantha Golden Wattle.jpg
Golden wattle Acacia pycnantha

The first suggestion of a dedicated Wattle Day was made by Campbell during a speech in September 1908.

The Wattle Day League was formed on 13 September 1909 at the Elizabeth Street, Sydney headquarters of the Royal Society, with J. H. Maiden, director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens as president. Its purpose was to present to the various State governments a unified proposal for a national day on which to celebrate the wattle blossom. In 1910 the League settled on "Wattle Day" as 1 September, and approached Sowden to form a branch of the League in South Australia. [11] Campbell and A. K. Warner founded a branch in Melbourne. [12] It was taken up, and there were celebrations in 1910 in three state capital cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, [13] although the Melbourne event was a muted affair due to heavy rain. The day was significant in being the first organised demonstration on a definite day across a number of States ever witnessed in Australia. In 1911 on September 1, Adelaide was described as a city 'decked with gold'. [4] In 1913, the national Wattle Day League (or Federation) was established to formalise the organisation of events for the celebration of Wattle Day [14] Queensland followed in 1913. [15] Sydney celebrated that year by planting 200 wattle trees in centennial Park.

Australian Coat of Arms with the Golden Wattle design, 1921 Coat of Arms of Australia.svg
Australian Coat of Arms with the Golden Wattle design, 1921

The Golden Wattle was incorporated as an accessory in the design of the Coat of Arms of Australia in 1912. [16]

Following the outbreak of World War 1 all attempts to gazette the emblem or Wattle Day were put aside.

There was some confusion in NSW over the date. In 1916, New South Wales changed its date for Wattle Day to 1 August, so that the indigenous, early-flowering Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) could be used. [1] The Cootamundra Wattle was planted all over Sydney and when the Red Cross called for sprigs of wattle to sell in Martin Place for the war effort, this species had mostly finished flowering. The League was granted a temporary change. Schools in NSW continued to use August 1 as the date for Wattle Day and there was some resistance to September 1 despite the association with Spring. That resistance now appears to have almost disappeared. [17]

Australian Bicentennial Celebration, 1988

On 19 August 1988, as part of the extended celebrations marking the (not uncontroversial) 200th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British convict ships at Sydney in 1788, the golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was officially proclaimed as Australia's national floral emblem by the Governor-General of Australia, the Rt Hon Sir Ninian Stephen AK GCMG GCVO KBE. A formal ceremony was held in the National Botanic Gardens on September 1 at which Ms Hitchcock was a guest of the government. Specimens of Acacia pycnantha were planted near the entry. [17]

National Wattle Day, 1992

In 1986 Maria Hitchcock of Armidale NSW began a campaign to have both gazetted. With the aid of ABC's Ian McNamara ("Macca"), whose Sunday morning national program Australia All Over focuses on all things Australian, the message went out resulting in hundreds of letters of support being sent to the Prime Minister. The campaign was not progressing until Maria Hitchcock met with Senator Graham Richardson at a Labor Party event in Armidale. Soon after the decision was made to gazette the Emblem at a special ceremony in Canberra at the ANBG on September 1. At that ceremony Ms Hitchcock was told by Senator Ray that she would have to personally gain letters of approval for the gazettal of National Wattle Day from each Premier and Chief Minister. Once again enlisting the aid of Ian McNamara and his loyal listeners, a new campaign of letter writing began. It took three years but the goal was finally achieved. Ms Hitchcock bundled all the letters together and sent them to Canberra requesting gazettal of National Wattle Day for September 1 each year. [17]

On 23 June 1992, Bill Hayden, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, declared that "1 September in each year shall be observed as 'National Wattle Day' throughout Australia and in the external Territories of Australia". [18]

2010 marked the centenary of the celebration of Wattle Day on 1 September 1910 in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, and Australian Geographic magazine was amongst those whose urged the public not to miss the chance to celebrate it again. [19]

Current celebrations

The grass roots celebration of National Wattle Day has taken some time to evolve. With Indigenous controversy over 26 January as Australia Day appearing to grow stronger, Australians are looking for an alternative date and National Wattle Day has been proposed. [20]

Australian state floral emblems

The Golden Wattle is Australia's national floral emblem; but in addition each Australian state has its own floral emblem.

Related Research Articles

Wattle or wattles may refer to:

Coat of arms of Australia coat of arms

The coat of arms of Australia, officially called the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, is the formal symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia. A shield, depicting symbols of Australia's six states, is held up by the native Australian animals the kangaroo and the emu. The seven-pointed Commonwealth Star surmounting the crest also represents the states and territories, while floral emblems appear below the shield.

<i>Acacia baileyana</i> species of plant

Acacia baileyana or Cootamundra wattle is a shrub or tree in the genus Acacia. The scientific name of the species honours the botanist Frederick Manson Bailey. It is indigenous to a small area of southern New South Wales in Australia, but it has been widely planted in other Australian states and territories. In many areas of Victoria, it has become naturalised and is regarded as a weed, outcompeting indigenous Victorian species.

<i>Acacia pycnantha</i> The golden wattle, a tree of the family Fabaceae native to southeastern Australia!

Acacia pycnantha, most commonly known as the golden wattle, is a tree of the family Fabaceae native to southeastern Australia. It grows to a height of 8 m (26 ft) and has phyllodes instead of true leaves. Sickle-shaped, these are between 9 and 15 cm long, and 1–3.5 cm wide. The profuse fragrant, golden flowers appear in late winter and spring, followed by long seed pods. Plants are cross-pollinated by several species of honeyeater and thornbill, which visit nectaries on the phyllodes and brush against flowers, transferring pollen between them. An understorey plant in eucalyptus forest, it is found from southern New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, through Victoria and into southeastern South Australia.

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<i>Acacia decurrens</i> species of plant

Acacia decurrens, commonly known as black wattle or early green wattle, is a perennial tree or shrub native to eastern New South Wales, including Sydney, the Greater Blue Mountains Area, the Hunter Region, and south west to the Australian Capital Territory. It grows to a height of 2–15 m (7–50 ft) and it flowers from July to September.

<i>Acacia leprosa</i> Scarlet Blaze

Acacia 'Scarlet Blaze' is a cultivar of Acacia leprosa originating from Victoria in Australia. It is noted for its unusual red flowers.

<i>Acacia mucronata</i> species of plant

Acacia mucronata, the variable sallow wattle or narrow-leaved wattle, is a shrub or small tree to 5 m high. It is native to southeast Australia, mainly the states of Tasmania and Victoria. It often grows as an understorey tree or shrub in eucalypt forest or as a dominant in scrubland. In drier regions of its distribution, like in northeast Tasmania, it often grows along creeks and sheltered coastlines.

<i>Trichilogaster signiventris</i> species of insect

Trichilogaster signiventris, commonly known as the golden wattle bud-galling wasp, is a species of Australian chalcid wasps that parasitises, among others, Acacia pycnantha. It has been introduced into South Africa, where the golden wattle has become an invasive pest.

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  14. "The Wattle Federation". The Examiner (Tasmania) . LXXII, (15). Tasmania, Australia. 17 January 1913. p. 7. Retrieved 14 August 2018 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  15. "Wattle Day League". The Brisbane Courier (17, 246). Queensland, Australia. 23 April 1913. p. 4. Retrieved 10 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.
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