If you are in NSW, Victoria or South Australia, Happy 111th Wattle Day. And next year the entire nation will celebrate the 30th anniversary of National Wattle Day.
If you, like me, are relatively new to Wattle Day, it may come as a surprise to discover Wattle Day’s long history. This beautiful, gentle day of national celebration seems to fly under the radar for most Australians.
Celebrated on the first day of spring, and for Christians, heralding the beginning of Season of Creation in the church calendar, National Wattle Day honours one of our nation’s unique native flora. But it’s not just the flower itself, there is deep symbolism found, and inspiration, in the brilliant and attractive blossom.
A native to, and found in, almost every part of these lands now called Australia, wattle grounds us quite literally on ancient lands, and reminds us that we find ourselves surrounded by the oldest continuous living cultures in the world. But that connection is not one that remains in the past, as many varieties of wattle are still important to and used by Aboriginal peoples for “food, medicine and tools” as well as indicating seasonal change. We still have so much to learn from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, especially when it comes to Creation and climate justice.
Over the last 250 years, in these lands now called Australia, colonisation, and the resulting injustice, has impacted our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and these impacts are still felt today, including ecological and environmental destruction.
Through this colonisation, the residents of the new British colonies searched for their own identity, separate from their European connections. The wattle provided inspiration. It was taken with soldiers to battles overseas, and today continues to be presented to visiting dignitaries and its image is represented on several of our nation’s medals, including the Order of Australia.
In more recent decades, when Australia formally settled on its own sporting colours, where did we look: the green of the eucalyptus and the yellow of the wattle. At the time of my writing, the world is in the midst of cheering on the achievements of international sports men and women at the Olympics and Paralympics. On more than one occasion I have been able to locate the Australian athlete in the crowd almost instantly because of their distinctive bright yellow cap, shirt, helmet or other piece of clothing. Together we cheer on the ‘Aussie Green and Gold’. It was recently pointed out to me, in the green and gold of the Australian Paralympic team uniform, appears an Aboriginal artwork by Rheanna Lotter titled ‘The Journey’. The para-canoeists put in a special request from the whole squad and the artwork appears on their kayaks as well.
Even the story of how Wattle Day became a National Day is beautifully gentle. Maria Hitchcock inspired a grassroots movement through one of our National Broadcaster’s most beloved radio shows “Australia All Over” to call on our political leaders for the gazettal of National Wattle Day. A gentle, yet persistent 6-year campaign of letter writing and conversations with politicians at all levels of government finally saw National Wattle Day gazetted on 1 September 1992*, two years before 26 January became a national public holiday.
Wattle is our national flower, and with over 1,000 varieties, it aptly represents the diversity of Australia.
In a time when many relationships are strained, a lot of us find ourselves separated by lockdowns, and the world confronts the drastic need for action on climate change, it seems timely that we take this day to reconnect ourselves with our home, the land through which God sustains us, and celebrate a resilient, bright and uniquely Australian flower.
Wattle Day offers us an opportunity to come together as peoples, with all of creation, and on Country. A unifying and inclusive celebration of our beautifully unique native flora; a day that everyone can be inspired by, where we can be proud without being parochial. This year I encourage you, as the wattle trees and bushes burst into flower across cities, towns and the bush, to join together with all of creation and may it remind us of our Common Home as we begin Season of Creation.
Reflect & Share
Share your photo of wattle and the Aboriginal Nation or Country your photo was taken on, with Common Grace on our facebook page @commongraceaus or use the #wattleday2021 on Instagram.
Read more about Wattle Day at www.wattleday.asn.au/. These ideas on how to celebrate come from the Wattle Day Association Inc.
Wear a sprig of wattle or green and gold
Greet each other with 'Happy Wattle Day'
Go for a walk to enjoy wattles in flower around your garden, suburb, nearby bush or arboretum
Find out more about how Wattle Day is being celebrated around Australia on 1 September http://www.wattleday.asn.au/about-wattle-day/2021-week-of-the-wattle-around-australia Those on Noongar country look out for the Matagarup Bridge tonight lit in green and gold
Explore our previous Wattle Day blogs:
Maria Hitchcock’s story reminds us of Allison Dawn Waterhouse’s 25 year letter writing campaign which you can read here
Last year Brooke encouraged us to learn the Common Name, Botanical Name, and Aboriginal nation’s name of the wattle. Read her reflections on the need to grow and celebrate unity in diversity here.
*(Hitchcock, Maria (2012)A celebration of wattle : Australia's national floral emblem (2nd ed.). Rosenberg Publishing)
Jane Kelly is Common Grace's Creation and Climate Justice Coordinator.