Naturalistic depictions of Australian plants and animals began appearing on domestic items at the end of the nineteenth century, a time when the Federation debate helped foster a sense of national identity. Organisations such as the Australian Natives’ Association promoted wattle as a national emblem, while the Wattle Day League sought a national day for the display of the flower. On 1 September 1910 the first ‘national’ Wattle Day was celebrated in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. In 1912 Prime Minister Andrew Fisher suggested that wattle be incorporated into representations of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms. Wattle Day celebrations peaked during the First World War, when they were used to raise funds for the war effort and bolster national pride.
Post-war Wattle Days continued to be linked with charity fundraising. This badge was probably bought to raise funds for a hospital or orphanage, institutions that at this time depended heavily on local public support. The popularity of Wattle Day waned following the Second World War but in 1988, the bicentenary of European settlement, the Governor-General proclaimed the golden wattle the national floral emblem. In 1992, the first day of September was formally declared ‘National Wattle Day’.
This badge is one of a large collection of badges acquired by the Hussey family of Healesville, Victoria, during and after the First World War. It is believed that the collection was begun by William Hussey, who enlisted in 1917 and was killed in action in 1918. The collection was later expanded by other members of the family.