Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Wattle Day for an inclusive Australia Day

THE FIRST DAY OF SEPTEMBER has many names. Some welcome it as spring’s dawn, a time to celebrate nature’s renewal. For others, it is National Wattle Day — a time when the smells of spring are in the air as well as Australia's vivid gold blossom.

In Australia, the wattle is the largest genus of flowering plants. In Australia, you could plant two or three different wattles for every day of the year and still have plenty left over, for Australia has more acacia species than the year has days. These acacias are extremely diverse and found in habitats from rainforest to arid lands.

I have written before on how Wattle Day is celebrated annually on the first day of spring. A sprig of Australia's national floral emblem, the golden wattle – Acacia pycnantha – is traditionally worn on the first day of spring. The green and gold of wattle leaves and blossoms were declared our national colours in 1984; in 1988, the wattle was adopted as the official national flower; and National Wattle Day was formally declared on 1 September 1992.

Australians may have made a home for themselves among the gum trees, but it is the wattle tree that has found its way into Australian republican symbolism. In 1993, the Australian Republic Movement gave its support to Wattle Day celebrations being held throughout Australia on 1 September. Wattle captures something crucial to the success of the republic — feeling for country. It is a unifying symbol.

September 1 marks the 28th anniversary of the declaration of National Wattle Day, as well as the 27th anniversary of the Australian Republic Movement giving its support to National Wattle Day celebrations throughout Australia.

Wattle Day has been celebrated annually on the first day of spring since 1910. However, the first known use of wattle as a meaningful emblem in the Australian colonies was in Hobart Town in 1838, when a resident suggested wearing a sprig of wattle to celebrate the golden jubilee of the landing at Sydney Cove. In this seemingly small gesture lay a suggestion of an independent Australia.

Wattle is a broad and inclusive symbol of an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry. It grows in all parts of Australia, differing varieties flowering throughout the year. This democracy of wattles – the fact that they grow in all states – was the overpowering reason why the wattle and not the waratah was chosen as the floral emblem in the early 20th Century.

Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said: “I am from this land. This place is home.”

It is a symbol that comes directly from our land. Wattle is Australian and represents us all. Like the Southern Cross, the appeal of wattle is not first and foremost to the idea of nation — but to the idea of place.

In 2017, Terry Fewtrell, President of the Wattle Day Association, proposed in the Sydney Morning Herald that:

We could link National Wattle Day, with Australia Day as joint days on which we celebrate Australia, this land, its waters and environment, its people and our nation. National Wattle Day would not compete with Australia Day, rather it would complete Australia Day. It would do what Wattle has always done — unite us.

Perhaps we could also see its blossoms as a metaphor for the land waving its flag to remind us to care properly for it. It is precisely wattle’s long presence in and deep association with the land that sets it apart as a national symbol and endows it with added meaning.

Wattle touches all levels of society.

Early pioneers and World War I diggers were buried with a customary sprig of wattle. Then Governor-General Sir William Deane took wattle blossoms to Switzerland to commemorate young Australians who died there. Prime Minister John Howard also wore sprigs of wattle at ceremonies after the Bali bombings.

Terry Fewtrell said in a 2014 Australia Day speech that:

“...wattle has journeyed with us in kitbags, pockets and letters to places that become synonymous with our shared story; be they Gallipoli, Kokoda or Swiss canyons."

Australian athletes wear wattle-inspired green and gold uniforms and those honoured with an Order of Australia receive awards with an insignia designed around the wattle flower.

Let’s all take a moment this National Wattle Day and reflect on the wattle flower which symbolises an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry.

So, when the blaze of wattle lights up the Australian landscape each year, let’s all remember that the wattle is a symbol of our land that unites us all.

The golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha is already our national floral emblem. Why not extend the symbolism a step further? Wattle Day may be the answer to the debate around celebrating Australia Day on January 26. Spring represents hope and renewal, so needed in our nation right now and in the foreseeable future. But above all, 1 September would be so much more inclusive.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Swipe Right on an Australian republic

Student filmmakers from across the nation recently described why it’s so important for Australia to gain its independence from the British Monarchy, as part of the 'Sixty Seconds for a Republic competition'.

Stoked that one of my Year 12 History students won the 'Sixty Second for a Republic' competition with this creative entry explaining why we should swipe right on an Australian republic.

Friday, June 05, 2020

The Man Who Shouldn't Be King

You're invited! Supporters of an Australian republic are coming together online this Monday 8 June 2020 and watching the official Australian premiere of, 'The Man Who Shouldn't Be King'.

The film takes a critical look at Prince Charles: landowner, businessman, political operator and future King of Australia.

This day marks the Queen’s birthday – or at least, one of them. Australians are expected to celebrate the birth of the British Queen on different days in June… or September… or October… depending where they are in Australia: despite the fact the British Queen was born in April.

The good news is the online film premiere which is much less confusing.

Simply log onto the Australian Republic Movement Facebook Page and you can watch this documentary live with fellow republic supporters.

Monday: 8 June 2020. 6-7pm
Duration: 43 minutes

You'll be able to interact with other supporters by leaving your comments and thoughts as the film plays.

Australian Republic Movement National Director, Sandy Biar, will be in the comments answering your questions about an Australian republic as we watch the documentary on Facebook.

The future King of Australia, Charles, was born on 14 November: who knows on which days we'll be marking his birthday - unless you take action!

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Megxit2 and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Commonwealth Day 2020 was held on 9 March 2020. Commonwealth Day is meant to be a day of observance by approximately one billion people of their common bonds and the contribution of the Commonwealth of Nations to the creation of a harmonious global environment. However, the only activity connected to Commonwealth Day appears to be the British royal family attending a church service

Reminds me of the total lack of celebrations in Australia for the Queen’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee. All this makes a mockery of the Commonwealth Secretariat establishing as this year’s theme of “A Connected Commonwealth”.

The Australian Republic Movement (ARM) has welcomed the announcement from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that they’re planning to step back from the British Monarchy and go their own way, and offered them Life Membership of the ARM. Peter FitzSimons, National Chair, Australian Republic Movement, said:

Harry and Meghan have said they’re distancing themselves from the British Monarchy because they want to earn their own keep, and be more ‘progressive’. They’ve effectively said they’ve outgrown the British Monarchy, and we in Australia can certainly relate to that.

Harry and Meghan clearly formed the view that the British monarchy was out of step with
modern democratic values and most Australians feel the same way. Prince William and Kate had been planning a visit to Australia – although coronavirus has now clouded that decision – showing how out-of-touch they were. Even while Australians were suffering through bushfires and floods, Australia was still receiving requests for Australian taxpayer-funded royal visits. Royal visits to Australia have previously cost millions, that money could be far better spent helping the victims of these tragic natural disasters.

Rather ironical that the last event as a senior royal is participation in Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey before they return to their Commonwealth hide-out.