Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wattle We Do, on Wattle Day?

I do so love the idea of Wattle Day.

But I find the reality deeply unsatisfying.
Today is the “official” National Wattle Day. Did you know?
What I did was to go bushwalking. I kept an eye out for wattles, but it was not a success. I found a lot of wattle plants, but only one species with flowers on it and they were mostly dead.
Did you have any better luck? Or did you just not know it was Wattle Day?
The only good wattle flowers I saw today were in my photo file. The ones above were photographed a month ago.
Apparently the patriotic urge to have a Wattle Day began around the time of Australian Federation. Wattle leagues had been established in most states by 1912, with each capital city making a decision on behalf of its own state as to which day suited them (and the city’s local wattles) best. The first day in September was a popular choice down south, but it wasn’t universal. Sydney chose it, but soon changed to 1 August, which suited it better.
In Brisbane, the organisers sensibly settled on a Wattle Day in late July, to match the peak of the annual wattle flowering in that district. It was a bit too early for those of us who live in Toowoomba, of course, but it was the start of a good idea.
It never really took off, though. Despite growing up in Queensland and living here for most of my life, I hadn’t actually heard of it until a few years ago. I have never been aware of any celebration of it in Queensland, or even any acknowledgement of its existence except for odd occasions when someone remarks “It’s wattle day today, you know”, to listeners who usually didn’t.
Supporters of the day have soldiered on, however. In 1990 they decided for some reason that the concept would be best served by agreeing to a National Wattle Day, on September 1st.
I’m not really sure why.
I even wonder whether Queensland agreed, or whether it was just that no-one cared enough to protest.
If the idea was that we Australians would be moved to patriotic fervour and enthusiasm for some of our loveliest native plants, it would really better for wattle days to be celebrated at a time when we could all actually go out into the countryside and see for ourselves how beautiful it is.

In much (perhaps most) of Australia, this can’t be done on 1 September.
For us in Toowoomba, mid-August would be perfect.
I can’t see that Wattle Day will ever really be a widespread Australian success, unless we fragment it to suit the reality of our great range of climates, and our matching rebellious, non-conformist flora. Telling wattles to behave themselves, and flower on the “official first day of spring” just isn’t going to work. (Who were these officials, by the way, and why did they feel the need to be official about when spring should start? Fortunately, the real spring ignores them, knowing a great deal more than they do about when it should really begin each year, in each part of Australia.)
There is really no reason why Australians couldn’t celebrate locally suitable Wattle Days on much the same basis. If we feel the need for some kind of uniformity, perhaps “official “ Wattle Days could be organised by local government areas. This is probably the largest unit that could make a decision likely to reflect what the wattles are actually doing in its bailiewick.
But why wait for an official decision? Next year, Let’s just do it!
It would be rather fun, really.