Submission to the Australia 2020 Summit (19-20 April 2008)

Wattle is a unifying symbol of Australia and Australians.

Wattle links us in time with those Australians, both indigenous and non-indigenous, who depended upon it – for firewood, tools, weapons, medicine, food, building and fencing. It has an industrial and economic history, from the tannin-rich bark of golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) and black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) which supplied colonial tanneries to the beautiful wood of blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), one of the world’s best cabinet timbers.

Wattle links us across our huge continent, where nearly one thousand different wattles (Acacia species) have evolved to survive across a wide range of soils and climates. There are few places in Australia where a wattle is not found growing nearby, either in the bush or in our gardens.

Flowering wattles also mark the passing of the seasons in different parts our land – they signaled to indigenous Australians that the whales were coming or that it was time to fish for eels. For many Australians the glorious golden blooms welcome the spring. Wattles also survive the passing of difficult times. They have a remarkable ability to regenerate after fire, flood and drought – symbolising our resilience as a people.

Wattle’s social history links us with those who embraced and celebrated the uniqueness of their new land. It was featured when ‘the union buries its dead’. For those Australians who fought overseas it was a reminder of home and wattle sprigs were placed in the graves of diggers or wattle seeds planted above them. It is still used to mark the death of an Australian in a foreign land. The green and gold of our sporting colours represent for many the green and gold of our wattle.

Wattle’s symbolic importance to Australians is official. In 1908 Prime Minister Fisher ensured wattle featured prominently in the Coat of Arms for our new nation. In 1988 the golden wattle   (Acacia pycnantha) was officially gazetted our national floral emblem and in 1992 the first day of September each year was declared as ‘National Wattle Day’ throughout Australia. The wattle blossom is central to the design of the insignia of the Order of Australia, which is the pre-eminent way Australians recognise the achievements and service of their fellow citizens.

Wattle has great potential to be a more widely-used symbol of Australia. Unlike other national symbols, wattle excludes no one but is uniquely Australian and representative of us all. It has great diversity, resilience and meaning to many Australians. In short there is no other symbol that says so much about us and our land, Australia.

The Wattle Day Association urges the 2020 Summit to see wattle as a great unifying symbol of the nation and to recommend that:

  • Greater use and recognition be given to wattle, as an egalitarian and unifying symbol of national identity, and National Wattle Day as an occasion of national celebration;
  • Australian honours be announced on National Wattle Day (instead of the current Queen’s birthday weekend); and
  • National Wattle Day is celebrated nationally as a public holiday.

Wattle Day Association Inc.

April 2008