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Wattle Day

Wattle Day

A special day

Wattle Day

Wattle Day

Another Date for Australia Day?

Some people feel that the current date of Australia Day is inappropriate because it marks the British invasion of Aboriginal Australia and we should instead hold it on the day that Australians invaded Turkey.

My preference would be for September 1st - Wattle Day. In the years between Federation and the First World War, wattle took on a deep significance for many Australians. An enthusiastic naturalist, A. J. Campbell, formed the Wattle Club in 1899 and his tweed-clad followers would tramp around the bush and farms ambushing unsuspecting wattle trees and join hands (with the opposite sex) and chant and sing - the chants and songs are now fortunately lost to posterity - before denuding said wattle tree so that sprigs could be distributed to the wattle-less hordes of the city. At news that A. J. Campbell was in the area, farmers locked their gates and wrote angry letters to the newspapers in an attempt to save their wattle trees from the naturalists.

A. J. Campbell & his followers celebrating Wattle Day, Werribee Gorge, 1905

Wattle Day was variously celebrated on August 1st  (to suit NSW's Cootamundra Wattle - regarded as a dangerous weed in Victoria) or September 1st, but more recently the first day of Spring has seemed more appropriate as a time when wattle is in bloom throughout Oz. (Yes, I know there are arguments about what is the first day of Spring). Writers like Henry Lawson and C J Dennis celebrated the wattle as a symbol of Australia at the same time as Canadians were adopting the maple leaf and New Zealanders the fern.

Sir William Deane’s choice of sprigs of wattle from his own garden to commemorate the death of young Australians overseas had added poignancy for those familiar with the significance of wattle in Australian history. Australia has adopted the green and gold of the wattle as our national colours, and the wattle has been celebrated by some of our lesser poets. If my memory serves me correctly there is a verse that goes something like this:

“Our favourite flower’s the wattle,
The emblem of this land.
You can stick it in a bottle,
You can ’old it in your ’and.”

Like the Eureka Flag, home grown icons like Wattle Day are easily hijacked by groups with socio-political agendas aimed more at dividing Australians rather than uniting them, but that shouldn't necessarily mean they are surrendered without a murmur.

Yes, I think White Hat would settle for Wattle Day as our national day.


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Some events and locations related to Wattle:

Hurstbridge Wattle Festival

The festival celebrates Australian heritage, environment and community. To find out more about the significance of Wattle Day in Australia's history go to Another Date for Australia Day. Lots of family activities including steam train rides.

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