Wattle Day

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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.

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.

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[edit]

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 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[4]. The proposal attracted some ridicule as the silver wattle blooms in August and September and would be unobtainable in November [5]. 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[6].

A short-lived "Wattle Blossom Day" was inaugurated by W. J. Sowden and the South Australian chapter of the Australian Natives' Association in 1890.[7]

The Wattle Club, 1899[edit]

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[8]. For several years the club organised bush outings on the first day in September specifically for the appreciation of wattles in their natural setting.

Wattle Day League, 1909[edit]

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.[9] Campbell and A. K. Warner founded a branch in Melbourne.[10] It was taken up, and there were celebrations in 1910 in three state capital cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide,[11] although the Melbourne event was a muted affair due to heavy rain. In 1913, the national Wattle Day League (or Federation) was established to formalise the organisation of events for the celebration of Wattle Day[12] Queensland followed in 1913.[13]

In 1916, New South Wales changed its state Wattle Day to 1 August, so that the indigenous, early-flowering Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) could be used.[1]

Australian Bicentennial Celebration, 1988[edit]

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.

Australian Coat of Arms with the Golden Wattle design, 1921

The Golden Wattle had been incorporated in the design of the Coat of Arms of Australia since 1912[14].

National Wattle Day, 1992[edit]

Four years later, 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".[15]

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.[16].

Some popular wattles[edit]

Australian state floral emblems[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b Panter, R 1995, Australia's Wattle Day, Parliament of Australia, Canberra, ACT, accessed 29 Nov. 2017, https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/CIB/cib9596/96cib1.
  2. ^ Robin, L 2002, ‘Nationalising nature: wattle days in Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies, 26, 73, pp. 13-26.
  3. ^ About Wattle Day, Wattle Day Association, Canberra, ACT, accessed 29 Nov. 2017, http://www.wattleday.asn.au/about-wattle-day.
  4. ^ ‘Tasmanian Anniversary Regatta’, Hobart Town Courier, 23 November 1838. p. 4, accessed 29 Nov. 2017, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4161391.
  5. ^ ‘Domestic intelligence’, Colonial Times, 27 November 1838. p.7, accessed 29 Nov 2017, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/8749190.
  6. ^ ‘National emblem: first regatta adoption: a sprig of wattle’, Mercury, 21 August 1935. p. 3,accessed 29 Nov 2017, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/30101764.
  7. ^ "History of the Wattle Day Movement". The Journal (Adelaide). XLVIII, (13199). South Australia. 30 August 1913. p. 12. Retrieved 10 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. ^ Walsh, N 2015, VicFlora: Flora of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria: Foundation Victoria, Melbourne, accessed 29 Nov. 2017, https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/dfe52d12-cc3f-4620-8a9b-ab8361322615.
  9. ^ "Wattle Day League". The Advertiser (Adelaide). LIII, (16,174). South Australia. 18 August 1910. p. 5. Retrieved 10 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  10. ^ "The Wattle Sentiment". The Argus (Melbourne) (20,010). Victoria, Australia. 8 September 1910. p. 6. Retrieved 10 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ Wattle Day history, Wattle Day Association, Canberra, ACT, accessed 29 Nov. 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20070829142927/http://www.wattleday.asn.au/history.html
  12. ^ ‘The Wattle Federation', Examiner, 17 Jan 1913, p. 7, accessed 29 Nov 2017, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/50688972.
  13. ^ "Wattle Day League". The Brisbane Courier (17,246). Queensland, Australia. 23 April 1913. p. 4. Retrieved 10 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  14. ^ WorldWideWattle, 2016, Australian coat of arms, Western Australian Herbarium and Department of Parks and Wildlife, Dalwallinu, Western Australia, Australia, accessed 29 Nov. 2017, http://worldwidewattle.com/infogallery/symbolic/coatofarms.php.
  15. ^ Commonwealth of Australia, Gazette, No. S 240, Monday, 24 August 1992, Australian National Herbarium, Canberra, accessed 29 Nov. 2017, http://www.anbg.gov.au/emblems/wattle.day.gaz.html.
  16. ^ Rule, C 2010, On this day: Wattle Day, Australian Geographic, Sydney, NSW, accessed 29-Nov-17, http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/on-this-day/2010/09/on-this-day-centenary-of-wattle-day.