Melbourne Day? 30 August

Poor Melbourne.  She’s been thrashing about for years, looking for a day to celebrate herself.  At the moment the good burghers of the town have settled on Melbourne Day on 30 August, the day that the landing party of the Enterprize went onshore.  The cynics amongst us might see the nomination of 30 August as another step in the Batman/Fawkner controversy over the founding of Melbourne that I’ve alluded to previously here and here.   And just look at all the things you can do today on the Melbourne Day website

Being a daughter of the land of the long weekend, a day’s not worth celebrating unless it’s a day off, and I can’t see that happening in a hurry.

But this yearning for a Big Day is not just a rush of blood to the collective heads of the City of Melbourne Public Relations Committee. Tom Griffiths in Hunters and Collectors goes through some of the other attempts to have a Melbourne Big Day- attempts that were as unsuccessful as I strongly suspect Melbourne Day will be.

There was, of course, Foundation Day or ANA day on 26th January but -damn it- school holidays were longer then and the little tackers were still on holiday. Besides, it’s always been a bit Sydney-centric, and there’s the problem of all those convicts…

Separation Day on 1 July, to celebrate the separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1851 was Victoria’s first day of commemoration, but it faded away quickly.  It was inaugurated only a couple of days before the discovery of gold.  With the influx of newcomers with the gold rush, it meant little and soon fizzled out.   The recent ringbarking of the Separation Tree in the Botanic Gardens provoked regret but not outrage, and I suspect that Separation’s not about to capture the public imagination anymore.

In 1911 the Victorian  Education Department declared 19th April to be “Discovery Day” because on that day Lieutenant Hicks sighted Victoria from Cook’s Endeavour (and sailed right on past….).  But then Anzac Day was inconsiderate enough to happen on 25 April so that was the end of a perfectly good date because the children and their teachers had quite enough to do with Simpson and Last Posts etc.

What about November 19 then?  It became “Pioneers Day” to commemorate the day that Edward Henty landed at Portland and became, so it was said, Victoria’s first permanent settler, complete with ploughs and sheep.  I don’t know when this day fell off the calendar.

We tend to have days for good causes, but particularly around the turn of the twentieth century,  “nature” days were all the go.  There was Arbor Day, (picked up from the United States) now known as National Tree Day, and held at different times around Australia.  I remember this one- being given a little tree in a tube to plant in the rock-hard, clayey school garden.  I also remember planting trees down by the Yarra River- the plantations are still there- but I’m not sure if that was for Arbor Day or not.  It may have just been a tree-planting scheme.

Then there was Bird Day, which was first held in Victoria in 1909 by the Gould League.  It was their centenary in 2009-  look here at their gallery of memorabilia.  I was a proud member of the Gould League with their tasteful little badge (I wonder if I still have it somewhere?); I loved the smell of their glossy magazines, and I had their sketch book with the magpie on the front. I entered a picture of an ibis (execrable creatures) for one of their competitions.   To be honest, there’s a twitcher in me that threatens to escape sometimes.

Wattle Day? 1st September apparently. It’s their centenary this year. They’ve got some fun suggestions for celebrating it.  Or not.  I remember someone bringing wattle to my fourth grade teacher -do children still take flowers to class? I suspect not.  Poor old Mrs Kenny was allergic to it, and was away from school for a fortnight.   Would bursting into “bwah-ha-ha” lower the tone of my blog?

Why not? I’m feeling so festive on our putative 175th Anniversary… Happy Melbourne Day to you too.

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12 responses to “Melbourne Day? 30 August

  1. I had forgotten about so many of those celebratory days from my childhood. Yes, I had the Gould League badge too and I was also a member of butterfly tagging organisation. I had the tags but I can’t recall if I ever tagged any.

    • Butterfly tagging???? Is that a joke? How on earth did that work? Oh- I just Googled it- you CAN tag a butterfly. But I thought that touching a butterfly meant that it couldn’t fly any more?

  2. Hmm, it’s been a long time since anyone brought flowers for me at school, I guess it’s the hayfever that put an end to Wattle Day…

    • When I think back, girls in particular often brought flowers for the teacher, and there was always a vase of flowers on the teacher’s desk and up on the mantlepiece. I guess that there are fewer cut-flower plants in gardens, and certainly no mantlepieces.

  3. I don’t remember the Gould League but I did get given a blue gum when I was in prep. I now have a soft spot for blue gums even though I don’t like what they look like!

    This post reminded me of another thing I received in prep – a medallion from the State Savings Bank of Victoria commemorating the bicentenary of Captain Cook sailing up the east coast of Australia. The funny thing is that until I got it out of the cupboard this morning I had remembered this as a medallion celebrating an anniversary of the State Bank of Victoria. Clearly ‘exploration’ did not interest the 5 year old me (and still doesn’t) but I do remember having warm feelings towards the State Bank of Victoria for giving us the medallion. In a bizarre way I think this led me to develop ‘patriotic’ feelings towards the State Bank of Victoria. I never forget how devastated I felt that morning we woke up to find out that the State Bank of Victoria was bankrupt and had been taken over by the Commonwealth bank overnight. I laugh now at my emotional attachment to what was just another financial institution.

    • I had an emotional attachment to the State Bank through my school bank book, although by rights any memories of school banking should fill me with horror. In grade six I was bank monitor which if you know me at all, you’d laugh at because I am practically innumerate! I think they hoped that it would improve my arithmetic skills. It didn’t.

  4. I wished my husband Happy Melbourne Day, but he just gave me a grunt and asked what the sod Melbourne Day was. Of course he spent his school years in Sydney and didn’t leave that city until he graduated university in 1970. But after 40 years, you would think he would know that in Victoria, an umpire is not called a “ref”. And bathing suits are not called “cossies”.

    What do you expect from a person who reads a Sydney-centric newspaper like The Australian 😦

    • I always buy the Australian on the first Wednesday of the month for the Australian Literary Review, but am too enraged by the rest of the paper to read it.

  5. Melbourne Day is just another simple piece of nonsense we see through Victorian history, like Moomba. I grew up in South Australia, we had Foundation Day, the 28th December, and didn’t bother with the Sydney day, 26th January, as that was about convicts and we were a free settlement. I still don’t celebrate the facetiously named Australia Day. Have a day off all the same. I think the 1st July is a good date for some sort of celebration as it is about separation from the lot to the north who think Australia ends east of Parramatta.

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