Symbols of Australia

Australian Coat of Arms

The generally accepted symbols of Australia are golden wattle [Acacia pycnantha], the red kangaroo [Macrops rufus], and the emu [Dromaius novaehollandiae].

In 1912, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the Hon. Andrew Fisher, MP, wattle was included as the decoration surrounding the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and it has also been used in the design of Australian stamps and many awards in the Australian honours system.

Australian flag

The Australian flag is composed of three parts:
The Union Jack (British flag) in the top left corner,
The ‘Star of Federation’ in the bottom left corner, and
The Southern Cross, taking up the right half of the flag.

The Union Jack shows that the first colonisation by Europeans was by Britain. The Star of Federation is a seven pointed star. They came to the number seven, by giving each state (six in all) a point on the star, and having one more point for Australia’s territories (of which there are several). There are two mainland territories, and several overseas, including two in Antarctica. The Southern Cross is a constellation that can be seen from all of Australia’s states and territories.

History of the flag
A competition was held to find the flag that would be adopted by the new nation of Australia late last century (Australia became a nation on 1 January 1901). Thousands of submissions were received, but something very interesting occurred: six of the flags received (no two from areas close to one another) were virtually identical. Not only had the same design been received six times independently from different parts of the country, but it looked good too. The flags differed only in small details (the number of points on the various stars, the size of the Union Jack, etc). The committee looking at the flags eventually decided on a flag that was not exactly the same as any one of the six, but similar to all of them. The prize money was shared between the six contestants. The flag was not actually adopted officially until 1952.

Australian National Flower

The golden wattle, like the many other varieties of wattle, blooms prolifically in late winter to early spring. Its clusters of golden flowers are most attractive to bees as well as a visual delight.

The wattles are shrubby trees, sometimes straggly in appearance, which grow to 6 or 7 metres in height. This variety has curved broad leaves and yields seeds in pods which look like a thin form of bean. Shiny surfaces on the leaves help reduce the drying effect of extremely strong sunlight.

Acacia pycnantha enjoyed popular acceptance as Australia’s national flower for much of this century but it was not proclaimed as the national floral emblem until 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary. The Gazettal is dated 1 September 1988, signed by the Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen, on 19 August 1988.

A ceremony was held on 1 September 1988 at the Australian National Botanic Gardens when the Minister for Home Affairs, Robert Ray, made the formal announcement, and the Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Hazel Hawke, planted a Golden Wattle.

Four years later, in 1992, the 1 September was formally declared ‘National Wattle Day’ by the Minister for the Environment, Mrs Ros Kelly at another ceremony at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. The Gazettal is dated 24 August 1992 and was signed by the Governor General, Bill Haydon, on 23 June 1992.

Australian National Song

Advance Australia Fair composed by Peter Dodds McCormick sometime around 1878 and in 1983 a new version of the song was adopted by the Australian government as the national anthem.

        Australians all let us rejoice,
        For we are one and free;
        We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
        Our home is girt by sea;
        Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts
        Of beauty rich and rare;
        In history’s page, let every stage
        Advance Australia fair!
        In joyful strains then let us sing,
        “Advance Australia fair!”