The case to change Australia Day to September 1, National Wattle Day | Poll

SEPTEMBER 1 could be the strongest candidate as the new date to celebrate Australia Day, as debate continues around the nation of cultural sensitivities with the January 26 national day.

Terry Fewtrell, the National Wattle Day Association president, said September 1 could be the ideal non-political date to celebrate the national holiday, linking Australia Day to the existing National Wattle Day observances.

"It has been proven scientifically that wattle has been growing in Australia for 35 million years," Terry explained in the lead up to National Wattle Day this week.

"So, what I say is that wattle has been the great witness to the whole Australian story."

For many, Terry said, Australia Day on January 26 is a puzzle.

"It is more than a puzzle. For some people, it is confounding.

"So, what we have said in this regard is that we think wattle can help us find a way through this puzzle," he said.

Wattle, Terry said, has been for many years the quiet symbol of everything Australian and, while he said Wattle Day could not compete with Australia Day, "it could complete it".

"Maybe it could help complete it in the sense that it offers us another way to think about and celebrate being Australian," he said.

While other nations around the globe have pinned their national days to turning points in history, Terry agreed the Australian story was not one of several turning points but one of "slowly evolving towards something".

The lack of a turning historical moment has muddied the waters in the debate to find a clear replacement date for Australia, but Terry said Wattle Day could be the answer.

"I guess it is hard to go past that sense of purity as a symbol - something that comes organically from our land and is an extension of our land and our people," he said.

National Wattle Day observances began around 1910, but informal state observances go back as early as the 1830s.

"That was the first year. There had been a couple of celebrations in a couple of states, but it was very much a post-federation thing," Terry said.

"People looked to wattle as a symbol that expressed us as a people and as a new nation. So, in 1910 there were coordinated wattle day celebrations in about three or four states.

"That is really when the formal celebrations if you like, as they are currently, began."

Since then, Wattle Day has moved to the background of national observances, but Terry said previous years had seen a gradual return to the national flora that is notably in bloom in some way at any given time in Australia.

"In the last five or 10 years, there has been a growing recognition that wattle has a lot to offer as a symbol. It is probably unique among our national symbols because it has no baggage. It has no problems and doesn’t cause problems for anybody," Terry said.

"It has welcomed us all. It has welcomed Aboriginal people, it has welcomed colonials, it has welcomed people after the second World War. It is that wonderfully egalitarian kind of symbol. 

"No one, except those who get a bit of hay fever, can take exception," he said.