Wattle Day

Wattle Day badge
The Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha (plant family: Mimosaceae), is the official floral emblem of Australia. Its green and gold colouring features in the uniforms of many of Australia’s athletes and sporting teams.

Wattle had been popular since the 1880s, and by 1910 branches of the Wattle Day League were started in South Australia and in Melbourne in Victoria. The first ‘national’ Wattle Day was celebrated in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide on the First of September 1910. Early Wattle Day activities included planting of wattle trees in school grounds, school lessons on botany, street decorations of wattle blossom, and wearing sprigs of wattle, often sold for charity.

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The plant was soon triumphant. Wide acceptance of a national Wattle Day was achieved at a major Australian Wattle Day League Conference in Melbourne in January 1913. Branches were formed (pardon me) in a number of States, with the general aim of officially proclaiming wattle as the national floral emblem and extending Wattle Day celebrations throughout the nation. About this time, wattle was officially introduced to representations of the Commonwealth coat-of-arms. And in December of the same year, the first wattle blossom stamp was issued. [From: «Wattle», by Maria Hitchcock]

The British comedy team Monty Python’s Flying Circus performed an outrageous skit of Australian academia titled “Bruces”. This sketch not only appeared in the Flying Circus TV Show, Episode 22, but also on their album ‘Monty Python Live at City Center’ and performed live in the Movie ‘Live at the Hollywood Bowl’. It was also featured on other albums: ‘The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief’, ‘The Monty Python Instant Record Collection (first version), ‘Monty Python’s Final Ripoff’ and ‘The Ultimate Monty Python Ripoff’. A shortened and different version was also performed on their live album ‘Monty Python live at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane’. During the sketch, where a new faculty member is introduced to the many Bruces in the Philosophy Faculty at the Australian University of Woolloomooloo, New South Wales, part of the dialogue features Australia’s National Floral Emblem as follows:

First Bruce: (Holds up wattle branch) This here’s the wattle, the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand.
Everybruce: Amen!

I performed it (as a performance poem) at a poetry reading decades ago, on the eve of Australia’s Wattle Day (1 September) to loud applause.

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