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1984, 1988 & 1992 - three significant proclamations by Australia's Governors-General

Australia's national colours of green and gold - 1984

In 1984 Australia's national colours were proclaimed to be green and gold. The gold represents the wattle blossom.

This settled a long dispute as to whether the national colours should be red, white and blue, or green or blue together with gold.

The precise green and yellow references chosen are:

  • Green: PANTONE®348C
  • Gold: PANTONE®116C
According to historian Peter Sharpham, "the Green and Gold were first adopted by the 1899 Australian cricket team
and were only later adopted by the Australian Olympic movement and other team sports.He suggests two possible reasons why green and gold became the national sporting colours around the turn of the 20th century. Some Australian teams played in light and dark blue and even maroon but these colours were too closely linked with particular colonies (states). The adoption of a new set of colours represented an attempt to transcend intercolonial (interstate) rivalries. There are also strong suggestions that the colours green and gold were chosen because of their association with the Australian landscape, most notably the gum tree and the wattle."

Australia's national floral emblem - 1988

The proclamation of Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha as the national floral emblem, was made on the 1 September 1988 in Australia's Bicentennial year. A wattle was chosen in part, because advocates such as school teacher, Maria Hitchcock, The Australian Native Plants Society and radio broadcaster Ian McNamara had lobbied state and federal government and raised public support with information that highlighted the rich history of wattle as an informal symbol of Australia from colonial times and its meaning for all Australians. For example in as early as 1891 the Australian Natives' Association accepted 'The wattle, in all its varieties' as the Australian floral emblem, the Golden Wattle naturally gaining preeminence because of its universality'.

['Universality' may have meant Acacia pycnantha represented most of Australia's acacias found everywhere in Australia, because it has modified leaf stems (phyllodes) as an adaptation to Australia's relatively hot, dry climate. Those well-known wattles with true leaves (that look a bit like ferns) such as the well-known wattle trees Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) and and Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) were only naturally growing in south-east Australia or in the case of another group small shrubs, in western Australia). The economic importance of Acacia pycnantha tannin-rich bark (for the important leather industry in colonial Australia), and its 'uniquely spectacular' blossom were also reasons for its choice back in 1891.

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha)
Photo: ©S.D. Searle

 

National Wattle Day - 1992

Continuing confusion over the actual date of Wattle Day required a long-awaited agreement among the Commonwealth and States to unify Australia's Wattle Day as the First Day of Spring (1st September) in every State and Territory. This took place in 1992 at the urging of Maria Hitchcock, Ian McNamara, presenter and Executive Producer of ABC's radio program 'Australia All Over', and petitions signed by members of the Society for Growing Australian Plants'.

 

Official Proclamation

1 September has officially been National Wattle Day since 1992

(Before then, Australians in different States and Territories celebrated wattle day on different days between July and September.)

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. S 240, Monday, 24 August 1992

1912 Coat of Arms Commonwealth

PROCLAMATION of National Wattle Day

Commonwealth of Australia

By His Excellency the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

BILL HAYDEN
Governor-General

I, WILLIAM GEORGE HAYDEN, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, declare that 1 September in each year shall be observed as "National Wattle Day" throughout Australia and in the external Territories of Australia.

(L.S.) GIVEN under my Hand and the Great Seal of Australia on 23 June 1992

By His Excellency's Command,

Nick Bolkus

Minister of State for Home Affairs

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

 Crest of the Governor-General of Australia

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) - Australia's national floral emblem - is part of the crest for the Governor-General of Australia

 

With the Centenary of Federation in 2001, Australians once again experienced strong feelings of nationhood. The Wattle Day Association is promoting a new Wattle Day oriented towards the future, encompassing positive virtues in the celebration of Australia and all Australians. While appreciating the history of the Day, we can adapt its rich symbolism to the great issues Australia faces as a nation still seeking to find its place in the world and as a community-minded people within a global economy.