Australian National Wattle Day: 1st Sept.

by Editor 20100831.

Australia’s Wattle Day Centenary (1910-2010)
is being celebrated on Wednesday 1 September 2010.

The Wattle flower is uniquely Australian.  It is a plant genus ‘Acacia‘ native to Australia.  That it is natural to Australia has made it ideal as a recognised and universally accepted Australian symbol.  The ‘Golden Wattle‘ (Acacia pycnantha) in particular is Australia’s Floral Emblem and is an integral part of the Australian Coat of Arms.

‘The first known use of wattle as a meaningful emblem in the Australian colonies dates back to the early days of Tasmania (1838), when the wearing of silver wattle sprigs was encouraged on the occasion of an anniversary celebration of the seventeenth century European discovery of the island.’      [Wattle Day Association]

Australian Coat of Arms

‘The first granting of armorial bearings to the Commonwealth of Australia was made in 1908. A new design was granted by Royal Warrant on 19 September 1912. The branches of wattle used as an ornamental accessory to the shield, representing the badges of the six States as they were in 1912, were not mentioned in the blazon, but were depicted in the coloured illustration included in the gazettal of the Australian armorial bearings. The wattle depicted has clusters of spherical flowerheads coloured yellow and blue-grey, and green phyllodes characteristic of many species of Acacia. It is not a botanically accurate representation of Acacia pycnantha ( ‘Golden Wattle’).

Order of Australia

The Order of Australia is part of the Australian system of honours and awards formally recognising achievement or meritorious service to the Australian nation.  The designs of the insignia of the Order are based on an individual ball of wattle flowers. The insignia are convex golden discs adorned with beads and radiating lines, and surmounted by an enamelled crown, signifying the traditional role of the Queen as Sovereign Head of the Order.  Blue ribbons decorated with golden wattle motifs complete the insignia in which the colours that predominate, blue and gold, represent the sea which surrounds Australia and the colour of the popularly accepted national flower. The blue and gold wreath surmounting the shield in the armorial bearings of Australia is described in the blazon, ‘for the Crest On a Wreath Or and Azure. . .’

Australians representing their country in international sporting events usually wear the national colours, green and gold, said to be based on wattle foliage and flowers.

Australian Patriotism

‘In the spirit of national and patriotic fervour generated by the approach of Federation, achieved in 1901, public interest in the Australian environment was awakened and the search for a national identity brought the desire for national symbols.

‘Archibald Campbell founded a Wattle Club in Victoria in 1899 to promote a Wattle Day demonstration every September to encourage recognition of the flower as a symbol of patriotism. In 1908 he delivered a lecture entitled ‘Wattle Time; or Yellow-haired September’ in which he stated that ‘by numbers, the Wattle is almost exclusively Australian, and should undoubtedly be our National Flower’. Interest in a national Wattle Day was revived in Sydney in 1909. Victoria and South Australia participated in 1910, and Queensland in 1912.

‘At the same time R. T. Baker, botanist and museum curator, advocated the choice of the Waratah, Telopea speciosissima as the Australian national flower. He wrote:

    “The expression ‘the land of the Waratah’, applies to Australia and no other; it is Australia’s very own. In the Wattle, Australia has not a monopoly like the Waratah, for Africa has over one hundred native wattles, and it also occurs in America, East and West Indies and the Islands. Then again it is not too much to say that throughout the whole botanical world the Waratah is probably unsurpassed as a flower for decorative purposes, and it is impossible to so conventionalise it out of recognition a great feature in a national flower.”

‘In 1911 the Evening News in South Australia reported indignant local reaction to a report ‘that South Africa has commandeered the yellow flower (wattle), and proposes to use it for patriotic purposes’ and supported the choice of the Waratah as the Australian national flower, noting its tangible features of strength, beauty and colour and its symbolic qualities of health, firmness, endurance and independence.

‘The adoption of wattle as the national flower tends to be confirmed by its introduction into the design of the Australian armorial bearings on the recommendation of the Rt Hon. Andrew Fisher, Prime Minister of Australia, when the Commonwealth Armorial Ensigns and Supporters were granted by Royal Warrant on 19 September 1912.’

The conflict which existed about the choice of the Australian national flower is seen in the inclusion of both waratah and wattle flowers as decoration on the three golden trowels used by the Governor General, Lord Denman, the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Andrew Fisher and the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. King O’Malley, for the laying of foundation stones of the commencement column in Canberra, the national capital, on 12 March 1913.
[Source:  Australian National Botanic Gardens, ^ ]

Australians in the Great War  [1914-1918]

“During World War I, various gum leaves and golden wattle were often enclosed with letters to me on service, as reminders of things they loved at home. There comes to mind the story that the arrival of one such mail caused an offensive to occur in France, with the same dried gum leaves stirring some men from the bush to burn some, to enjoy the smell of burning gum trees. One became so excited with memories, that he discharged his rifle in glee, unfortunately Fritz was not to know that and some replied with rifle fire which induced machine guns to join in and so it spread until artillery of both sides were engaged.”

Alban Pierce – Extract from a personal letter

‘Wattle Day and wattle blossom took on a new emphasis during World War I. Light-hearted celebrations and carefree gatherings were replaced by serious fundraising and a depth of patriotism never before experienced among Australians.

The New South Wales Wattle League put all its energies into helping the war effort. Together with the Red Cross and Patriotic Fund, they combined forces to raise as much money as possible by selling sprigs of wattle on the streets of Sydney. Depots were established in various parts of the city to receive wattle sent by country supporters.’

[Source: ]

National Wattle Day – why do we celebrate?

  • ‘Wattle is our national floral emblem. It is a symbol that comes directly from our land;
  • ‘Wattle is Australian and rerpesents us all. Unlike other national days, National Wattle Day excludes no one;
  • ‘Like our people, wattle has great diversity (with nearly 1.000 species) and resilience;
  • ‘Wattle welcomes in the spring and is among the first plants to regenarate after fire, reminding us of the importance of renewal as it paints our national colours across our land; and
  • ‘Wattle is a unifying symbol for all Australians. There is no other symbol that says so much about us and our land, Australia.
  • ‘Wattle is a symbol of Australia and Australians.

So join the celebration of National Wattle Day – 1 September 2010 in this, the centennial year.

Terry Fewtrell
Wattle Day Association


[Source:  ^]

Victorian Bushfires 2009

‘This is the message of National Wattle Day. Wattles are usually the first pioneer plants to rise from the ashes of bushfires, using the extra nutrients to support their growth. They then provide protection for other seedlings growing underneath in a natural succession of the bush.’

‘This year we suffered the tragedy of the worst bushfires experienced in our land. Many Victorians lost their lives, their property, everything they owned. Australians all over the continent rallied to their aid, donating money and goods in an unprecedented appeal. The victims are now putting their lives back on track and planning their recovery. This resilience is a characteristic of the Australian way of life. Australians have always shown a determination to succeed and rise above any disasters, showing the spirit that has made us a great nation.’

[Source: ]
Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha Benth.)
©Mornington Peninsula Youth Enterprises

National Wattle Day – ‘It’s an honour’

Further Information:

Australian Government
Australians in The Great War 1914-1918
Wattle Day
Wattle Day Association
Australian National Botanic Gardens
Australia’s Wattle Day
Nationalising Nature: Wattle Days in Australia
Wattle Day Research
Wattle Days from Adam Lindsay Gordon to Ginger Mick
Wattle Nationalism
National Symbols – Australia’s national floral emblem and national colours
The Genus Acacia
Article: Introduction to Acacia
Article: The name Acacia retained for Australian species
The Acacia Page Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants (ASGAP)
World Wide Wattle – conservation, utilization and enjoyment of Australian Acacia species (Wattles)
Traditional uses of Australian acacias
Article: If You Start Sneezing don’t Blame the Acacias

© The Habitat Advocate    Public Domain


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