1st September, “Wattle Day”

Text: Liz Hansman
Images: see text

Acacia Pycnantha – Golden Wattle by Cheryl Hodges.
Golden wattle tree, family Fabaceae,  is native to Sth Eastern Australia, growing as an understory plant in Eucalyptus forests in NSW, ACT, Victoria, South Australia.

” Wattle Day is a day of celebration in Australia on 1st day of September each year, which is the official start of the Australian Spring. This is the time when many Acacia species are in flower…The day was originally intended to promote patriotism for the new nation ..” becoming popular in the early years of Federation.

However, much earlier in Hobart, on 1st December,1838,  in the first Hobart Town Anniversary Regatta, a triumphal arch decorated with wattle blossom was used to celebrate the discovery of the island by Abel Tasman in 17th century. The November flowering Black Wattle (Acacia meansii) was used and the custom of wearing a sprig of wattle for this occasion continued until 1883.

Wattle Day, 1869

Several “Wattle” organisations arose such as the South Australian chapter – begun as a women’s branch – of the Wattle Blossom League inaugurated by W.J.Sowden in 1890. The aim was to encourage patriotic sentiment among women of Australia and love of Australian literature and music.

The Wattle Club, was initiated by  the ornithologist and field naturalist, Archibald James Campbell in 1899 .

He wished to promote appreciation for the more than 1000 species of wattles, and of Australian nature in general.  He gave a speech in September 1908 suggesting a dedicated Wattle Day.

The Wattle Day League formed on 13th September 1909. They wanted to present a unified proposal for a national day to celebrate wattle blossom and the new nation. They agreed on 1st September for the special day and in early 1910 Sowden was asked to form a branch in SouthAustralia.
The first celebration of Wattle Day in more than one state on the same day took place on 1st September 1910, in NSW, Vic, and S.A.

“On 1st September 1911 Adelaide was described as a “city decked with gold”

Queensland followed in 1913 and that year Sydney celebrated by planting 200 Wattle trees in their Centennial park.

The wattle painting used on the dinner menu on Sunday 31st August 1958 , on the liner “Oronsay”, showing they were also aware of the celebrations for Wattle Day.

Golden Wattle (Acacia Pycnantha) was incorporated into the design of the Australian Coat of Arms in 1912.National Wattle Day , 1992:

It took much effort,  particularly by Maria Hitchcock of Armidale, NSW who, with the support of Ian McNamara of the ABC, campaigned to have Wattle Day formally gazetted by the Government. Finally on 23rd June 1992, after many letters of support being gathered, Bill Hayden, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, declared that 1st September would be observed as National Wattle Day.

“2010 marked the centenary of the celebrations of Wattle Day on 1st September 1910 in NSW, Victoria and South Australia”.
The Australian Geographic magazine urged the public to use the opportunity to celebrate again.

Queen Elizabeth 11 and the Wattle Brooch.
This beautiful brooch was presented to the Queen by Prime Minister Robert Menzies during her 1954 Commonwealth Tour.  It was a gift from the government and people of Australia.  Made by Budapest born jeweller Paul Schneller, commissioned by William Drummond & Co of Melbourne,  it holds 150 white and yellow diamonds. It is thought to be one of the Queen’s favourite pieces of jewellery as she is pictured wearing it on many occasions over the years.

If you have any information about Wattle Day in the Adelaide Hills, or of your own or your relatives involvement, we would be most interested to hear from you.

Contact us at mldhsgateways@mtloftyhistoricalsociety.org.au or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.