Australia Day is one of Australia’s few official national days of celebration. National Wattle Day, proclaimed in 1992, is another.
National days come and go as their relevance changes. Who celebrates Empire Day (Queen Victoria’s birthday on 24 May)? This became a commemorative day after the Queen’s death in 1901 for more than 50 years (1903 – 1958). Names change too. January 26 was called ‘First Landing Day’ and ‘Foundation Day’ by the colonists of NSW to mark the beginning of British occupation of Australia. Later it was called ‘Australia Day’, ‘Day of Mourning’, ‘Invasion Day’, and ‘Survival Day’.
Other countries have several national public holidays each year for people to celebrate their history, identity, values, beliefs and nature’s annual cycles. In Australia we have few and room for more.
Pragmatically National Wattle Day (1 September) is well placed to become a national public holiday as there are currently no such days from July onwards and very few state or territory public holidays in the latter part of the year. On the first day of spring, this national day of unity has great symbolism in its timing and the intrinsic messages of Australia’s more than 1,000 wattles (Acacia species) about how to thrive in this great land: diversity, resilience, and adaptation.
To quote Jack Fahy, Wattle Day Association founder, it is also a time for thanksgiving for the great good fortune we share in this country where we aspire to equality of opportunity and the absence of violence to settle disputes.
Dr Suzette Searle
President Wattle Day Association Inc.