Wattle Day, 1st September

The first of September is Wattle Day in Australia, marking the day which has traditionally been denoted as the first day of spring.

In 1909 Wattle Day was proposed as a way of celebrating our national flower and as a day where Australians could show their patriotism for their native land (which had only become a federated nation a few years earlier, in 1901). This was at a time when much of the official symbology used was British in nature and many people were looking for ways to demonstrate their distinctive native Australianness.

The wattle, as a national symbol, had originally been promoted in the late 1800s. The Australian Natives Association supported the wattle as Australia’s national flower and held a “Wattle Blossom Social” in Adelaide on 14 October 1889, where the idea of creating a “Wattle Blossom League” (for women only) was put before the audience. The ANA aimed “to stimulate a national and patriotic sentiment amongst all classes of the community” and to join the separate Australian colonies together in one national federation, to enable Australia to deal with important matters, such as defence and immigration, on a unified national level.[1]

A Wattle Club for ladies, formed at Willoughby (New South Wales) for social purposes, was in existence by 1893 and a Wattle Club was in existence in Mentone (Victoria) in 1894.[2]

Whilst there was mention of a Wattle Day being celebrated in Melbourne on 14 September in 1895, it was not until 1909 that the first serious movement towards a national Wattle Day occurred. What appeared to start the idea off was when the curator of Sydney’s Botannical Gardens, J.H. Maiden, called for an Australian national flower to be adopted in 1906. He considered the gum tree and wattle blossom to be the best choices; whilst there was much support for the waratah (as it was found exclusively in Australia), its case was lessened by the fact that it was only found in limited areas in the country. Both wattle and waratah had their fervent supporters, but in the end the wattle won. In 1909 a meeting was held to establish the wattle as the national flower and establish a national Wattle Day; the gathering received support from several prominent people, including Dame Nellie Melba. The meeting decided that “With a view of stimulating Australian national sentiment, and connecting it with love of our beautiful flora, we suggest the desirability of setting apart, throughout the Commonwealth, a day on which an Australian national flower – the wattle blossom – might be worn, and its display encouraged. Wattle might also be sown and planted on this day. It is suggested that a date in September would be universally suitable, but we do not propose that It be a holiday. … the first Wattle Day could be celebrated in 1910.”[3]

The first big Wattle Day was held in 1910, with Australians all over the country wearing a sprig of wattle to show their patriotism.[4]

For many years patriotic Australians wore wattle on the 1st of September to show their pride in Australia, although its popularity fell away in later years, especially as Australia Day rose to prominence as the main celebratory day of national pride. However, the deeply-imbued demonstration of wattle-inspired patriotism later developed into the wearing of green and gold as our national sporting colours.

On Wattle Day, wear a sprig of wattle, or wear some green and gold (perhaps a small green and gold badge or ribbons on your lapel), to show some Aussie pride.



Waratah and Wattle

Poem by Henry Lawson, 1905

Though poor and in trouble I wander alone,
With a rebel cockade in my hat;
Though friends may desert me, and kindred disown,
My country will never do that!
You may sing of the Shamrock, the Thistle, and Rose,
Or the three in a bunch if you will;
But I know of a country that gathered all those,
And I love the great land where the Waratah grows,
And the Wattle bough blooms on the hill.

Australia! Australia! so fair to behold
While the blue sky is arching above;
The stranger should never have need to be told,
That the Wattle-bloom means that her heart is of gold,
And the Waratah red blood of love.

Australia! Australia! most beautiful name,
Most kindly and bountiful land;
I would die every death that might save her from shame,
If a black cloud should rise on the strand;
But whatever the quarrel, whoever her foes,
Let them come! Let them come when they will!
Though the struggle be grim, ’tis Australia that knows,
That her children shall fight while the Waratah grows,
And the Wattle blooms out on the hill.



References:
[1] “Australian Natives Association: Wattle Blossom Social”, The Advertiser (Adelaide), Tuesday 15 October 1889, page 6
[2] “Football”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 28 September 1893, page 6 [re. the Wattle Club in Willoughby]
“Wattle Club, Mentone”, Mornington Standard, Thursday 25 October 1894, page 3
[3] “Melbourne gossip”, Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.), Thursday 12 September 1895, page 3
“Wanted, a national flower”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 26 May 1906, page 11
“Wanted, a national flower”, Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW), Saturday 2 June 1906, page 11
“Wattle Day: An enthusiastic meeting”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 31 August 1909, page 5
“Wattle Day: A Sydney suggestion”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Wednesday 1 September 1909, page 15
“Wattle Day”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 1 September 1909, page 5
“Australian national sentiment: A floral emblem – Wattle Day”, Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW), Saturday 4 September 1909, page 10
[4] “Wattle day: Australia’s native flower: “Emblem of patriotism and love”: Celebration to-day”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 1 September 1910, page 8
“In memory of the waratah”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 1 September 1910, page 8
“Wattle Day”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), Thursday 1 September 1910, page 4
“Wattle blossom day: The national flower”, The Advertiser (Adelaide), Thursday 1 September 1910, page 7
“Wattle day: First celebration”, The Argus, Friday 2 September 1910, page 7
“Wattle day celebration”, Kalgoorlie Western Argus, Tuesday 6 September 1910, page 13

Further reading:
National Wattle Day: 1st September”, Maria Hitchcock
About Wattle Day”, Wattle Day Association
Wattle Day”, Wikipedia

Comments

  1. Save Australia says:

    City celebrates Wattle Day in the Barrier Daily Truth (Broken Hill)

  2. Save Australia says:

    Queensland has not forgotten Wattle Day

    The Gympie Times, 1st September 2011

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