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The first Wattle Day was held in Hobart in 1838 to mark 50 years of British settlement in the Australian colonies. It became a more widely practiced event on 1 September, 1910 with celebrations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Though plans to celebrate Wattle Day nationally were interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War, Wattle Day served as a strong symbol of patriotism during the war with the Red Cross using it as a focus for fundraising for the war effort.

The Golden Wattle, flowering during late winter and early spring, grows around the country and is the national floral emblem. Unlike many other national celebrations at the time, Wattle Day was purely Australian, with no ties to Great Britain.

Purpose

The Wattle Day League was made up of women born in Australia, or married to members of the 'Australian Natives Association'. Members encouraged the planting and preservation of wattle as a symbol of Australian identity which they hoped would be recognised and celebrated throughout the Commonwealth. Wattle Day was intended to provide a sense of both national identity and recognition of Empire as people were encouraged to identify as 'Australian Britons.'

Recent years

In 2011 Paul Nebury argued that Wattle Day, on 1 September, should replace Australia Day, 26 January, as our national day of celebration. He argued that the Wattle is a symbol of unity while stating

I find it impossible to celebrate national unity on a day that divides the nation between the Indigenous survivors of invasion and those who inherited the spoils of their dispossession. 

Despite this Wattle Day is not widely recognised or even known about by many members of the Australian public any more. 

By Catherine Manning, History Trust of South Australia

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Badges

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Image: small circular badge with text and wattle flower depiction in the centre
Image: A small circular badge with painted wattle flowers with text above them which says for our own

Wattle Day Activities

Images
Image: A group of children stand near a house holding trays of flowers, two are on bicycles, and some are holding Australian flags
Image: Front view of a train decorated in foliage, two men stand at the front of the train
Image: Two women and a child sitting in a buggy drawn by a single horse through a city street
Image: A woman is selling some wattle plant to a man in the street as a young boy looks on, a man walks by in the background
Image: Three women and a young girl wearing hats and long coats stand in the street holding sprigs of wattle plant

Wattle Images

Images
Image: A wattle plant, with two British flags, and two Australian flags flying behind
Image: A wattle plant, with two British flags, and two Australian flags flying behind, and some text.
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