History – How the Wattle Day Association began in 1998

Wattle Day Association – Our Story

The Wattle Day Association is a volunteer, not-for-profit, non-party political, non-sectarian community organisation that began in the suburbs of Canberra in 1998 (this was 88 years after the Wattle Day was first celebrated in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide on the 1st September 1910).

It was founded by Jack Fahy in the hope that the Association would foster National Wattle Day as a national celebration of being Australian.

Jack Fahy first had the idea of re-starting Wattle Day celebrations in Canberra in 1983 and became chairman of the ‘Week of the Wattle’ subcommittee he established as part of the Canberra Australia Day Council (CADC). (Jack had been CADC Chairman 1979 – 1982.)

In 1983 Jack’s idea was that the ‘Week of the Wattle’ would be celebrated first in Canberra in 1983 and then around Australia in 1984. He promoted the ‘Week of the Wattle’ (22 – 28 August 1983) through newspaper, TV and radio interviews, and contacted schools, several community groups and public service departments to encourage them to wear the green and gold (a sprig of wattle) on Wednesday 24 August to celebrate Wattle Day.

However it wasn’t until 1992 that the first of September was gazetted as National Wattle Day and in 1998 that Jack tried again to drum up support by ringing newspapers to ask why Australians weren’t celebrating their National Wattle Day.

As a result of enthusiastic media interest not only from across Australia but also from the UK, Jack invited interested people through an advertisement in The Canberra Times to join him to form the Wattle Day Association.

Jack and his wife Florence (pictured below) initially funded the Association with a personal loan of $1000 and continue to organise activities to celebrate this special day.

Its first members were friends, neighbours and other interested Canberrans (historians, botanists, wattle enthusiasts, scientists).They included school principal, David Raff and his teacher wife Jan Raff who composed three songs: ‘The Week of the Wattle’ (1982), ‘Song of the Wattle’ (1983) and the Wattle Day Song (1999).

The Association then went on to successfully bid for small government grants (Centenary of Federation federal grant and ACT government grants). They used these funds to promote the day: establish a website, design a logo, and produce badges, ribbons, posters and an information flyer to give or send to anyone who wanted them to celebrate their own National Wattle Day. Jack was the Association’s first President from 21 September 1998 until 22 March 2007 when he retired from the position. Terry Fewtrell became President (for 12 years) until stepping down in 2019. He remained as Vice-President and then in 2021 became Secretary until stepping down September 2023. The current president is Dr Suzette Searle. Mike Gilmour (Qld) has been Vice -President since 2021


Since 1998 in Canberra, the Association has celebrated and promoted National Wattle Day by:

  • handing out sprigs of wattle to our new citizens at Australian citizenship ceremonies at the ACT Legislative Assembly (since 1999).
  • handing out sprigs of wattle to members of the Federal parliament, and at churches, shopping malls and horse race meetings
  • organising local school children to present a basket of wattle to the Governor-General of Australia for Wattle Day (since 1999). Children also made presentations of wattle to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of the A.C.T. and other parliamentarians and dignitaries
  • organising forums in collaboration with the National Museum of Australia to discuss current controversial issues (since 2004)
  • organising picnics (at the Australian National Botanic Gardens and the Canberra Yacht Club)
  • collaborating with the Australian National Botanic Gardens to organise outdoor radio broadcasts with the ABC Gardening Show (2001) and talks about the symbolism, social history, botany, ecology and traditional and industrial uses of wattle (2004, 2005, and 2011)
  • organising neighbourhood welcoming parties for National Wattle Day
  • organising Wattle Day dinners (from 2000- 2013) on 1 September
  • giving newspaper and radio interviews on National Wattle Day
  • writing articles about National Wattle Day, wattles and the Wattle Day Association for local newspapers and interest group newsletters
  • answering requests for information or promotional materials from around Australia
  • updating its website to include and promote links with the National Wattle Day celebrations of others groups and associations. Let us know what they are!
  • updating the Wattle Day Association Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/WattleDay founded in June 2014) as a source of information and links to current events
  • designing and making wattle day badges 2010-2014 (for five years) to raise funds for the volunteers of the ACT Rural Fire Service. In partnership, the WDA helped raise $6,000 in 2010 and $7,000 in 2011; $4,000 in 2012 and $6,000 in 2013
  • Leading wattle walks around 1 September through the Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park (STEP) at the National Arboretum Canberra since 2016
  • Hosting a ‘Wattle Corner’ to give out fresh sprigs of wattles to visitors at the Village Centre, National Arboretum Canberra for National Wattle Day since 2016
  • Growing hundreds of Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) seedlings for planting at the National Arboretum Canberra since 2016, the Australian National Botanic Gardens from December 2020 and the National Triangle (since March 2022).

Suzette Searle

President Wattle Day Association Inc.
May 2024

Message from Terry Fewtrell
second President of the Wattle Day Association from 2008-2019

WDA 25th Anniversary 16 Nov. 2023
L to R: The cutting of the cake for the 25th Anniversary of WDA by Florence Fahy, Suzette Searle, Judy Tunningley, Terrry Fewtrell and Rod Panter

On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Wattle Day Association, Terry Fewtrell gave an inspiring speech, ‘Advocating for Wattle and National Wattle Day’ Terry Fewtrell for WDAs 25th Anniversary16 Nov 2023 to the assembled WDA committee members (past and present).

Message from Jack Fahy
the founding President of the Wattle Day Association Inc.

‘National Wattle Day – first day of Spring’

As the wattle blossoms gold to welcome in the Australian spring, let us celebrate being Australian.

We are extremely fortunate and blessed to be who we are and to live on our island continent.

Being Australian is, as with everything else, in a constant state of change. There is not a thing that you see, hear or think which is not changing. So let us not think that being Australian means conforming to a rigid set of values, traditions or stereotypes from the past.. To be Australian 250 years ago would have meant being a nomadic Aboriginal; 150 years ago, it may have been a British settler.

Today we are a multicultural Australia with some wonderful traditions and systems. What will we be in 50 years time?

“Australia’s national colours of green and gold are those of the Golden Wattle tree in flower.”[1] It is also our national floral emblem.

The land seems to have given us the symbol to celebrate being Australian and it is for ALL Australians.

Let us therefore celebrate being fortunate enough to have the gold and the beauty that is within us and within our land on National Wattle Day – the first day of Spring.

“Wear a sprig of wattle or something green and something gold.”

I hope that National Wattle Day becomes a celebration for ALL Australians and will lead us in this ever-changing world to aspire and evolve into being better Australians.

Jack Fahy
(1998 – 2007)

[1] Reference: “Australian Symbols”, Commonwealth of Australia 2000, ISBN 0 642 471312

Mr Jack Fahy, founder of the Wattle Day Association Inc. was posthumously appointed to the Order of Australia (OAM) for his ‘service to National Wattle Day celebrations’ on 10 June 2019.

Jack Fahy founded the Wattle Day Association in 1998


Wattle Day Association President (2012-2019) Terry Fewtrell, said: “This award is great recognition of the work that Jack did to promote wattle as our national floral emblem and National Wattle Day – 1 September, as a celebration of Australia – its land and its people”.

“The resurgence that Australia is seeing in the significance of wattle as our pre-eminent national symbol is the result of Jack’s dedication and work with the Association that he founded 20 years ago.


Jack at a shopping mall in Canberra ACT in 2000 and with his wife, Florence at the racetrack promoting National Wattle Days


He was a passionate Australian and passionate about wattle as our national symbol, writing that:

The land seems to have given us the symbol to celebrate being Australian …

We are extremely fortunate and blessed to be who we are and to live on our island continent…

I hope that National Wattle Day becomes a celebration for ALL Australians and will lead us in this ever-changing world to aspire and evolve into being better Australians’”.

Their Excellencies, Marlena and Major General Philip Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC
receive a basket of wattle in Government House from Aranda Primary School on behalf of all of the schoolchildren of Australia

Mr Fewtrell reflected that Jack wanted all Australians to know and love the beauty of wattle as expressing the spirit of Australia and to celebrate that on National Wattle Day.

“At a time when there is much discussion about national days and national identity, Jack’s award, posthumous though it may be, reminds us that National Wattle Day provides the opportunity for inclusive national celebrations”.

Terry Fewtrell

Wattle Day Association Inc.

10 June 2019


Farewell Jack Fahy

Jack Fahy died on 31 March 2018. His enthusiasm, joy and love of the wattle as a symbol of Australia inspired many of us.
Jack founded the Wattle Day Association 20 years earlier in 1998.