Friday, 10 August 2018

A book you should read - Waste of a Nation: Garbage and Growth in India

Waste of a Nation: Garbage and Growth in IndiaWaste of a Nation: Garbage and Growth in India by Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book turned out to be more engaging than the subject initially suggested. The first clue is the light humour in the title; a gentle spice throughout the narrative. Though the subject is perhaps intrinsically unattractive the book demonstrates that it is vital and while India’s situation has unique factors, the issues are universal as is the urgent need to address them. 

The authors sympathetic and perceptive observations have intrinsically constructive intentions, I think. Rancour, cynicism or despair may have been easy options, but their approach is to focus on suggesting how things can be made better. 

The comprehensive reading behind the book places India’s situation in its realistic geographic and historical context and thereby illustrates that the issues are universal. While various themes come up in different contexts, I didn’t feel like thinking ‘you told me that before’; the concept of a ‘binding crisis’ and the plight of the Dalits are examples. The book is thoughtfully structured by dedicated educators. 

Hopefully, this book will be widely read – it certainly deserves to be!

The authors talk about their book.

If you wish to buy Waste of a Nation just click here to order your copy.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

What are my top six posts?

Here’s the latest countdown…

Number 6

One of my more respectable ancestors, who made a distinguished contribution to Glaswegian culture. 

This is the only known photo of him.

Number 5:

The story of a war hero who also built a church retains its place at number 5. 

There will be a further item on him later in the year.

Number 4:

An introduction to my two tea-planting ancestors. This is up from number 6 and continues to have regular views. The picture shows Claud on the left and Fred on the right with their respective spouses seated with two other daughters of Claud's standing. 'Ruffles' is in a bow.  

Number 3:

Solving more family mysteries and widening horizons. This item was previously number 2.

The photo was taken at a country show in about 1950 and would have been against his will had he known.

Number 2:

La Trobe: Rambler, Writer and Royalist. 

Responses to John Barnes impressive award-winning biography of the man whose name followed me around for many years. 

This was previously number 1.

And the new top read is...

Number 1:

Australia Day: when would you like it? 
Should we change the date of Australia Day? Here are some suggestions which might be better than 26 January! 
The Red Ensign flag - Australia's original flag, is via Wikipedia.

Please look over the posts and share your favourites…

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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The search for William Romulus Powe's father

For a long time, I’ve tried to find the ancestry of my ancestor William Romulus Powe.

Finding William Romulus Powe - ‘WRP’ – in the first place was an interesting journey which I’ve described before

A major difficulty is that he is often assumed to be William Powe, the son of Revolutionary War veteran William Powe (1759-1849). They were both about the same age but married different wives in Garrard County Kentucky and moved to Missouri at about the same time.  

But having clarified that, I became stuck on trying to find who WRP’s parents were. I’d come to a dead-end.

So, I decided to get some (more!) expert help from genealogist Dr Leonard Butts.

My request was simple: can you find the parents of WRP and document his relationship with the other Powes in Garrard County, Kentucky?

What we know

Here are the main things we know about WRP.

WRP married Margaret Brown in Garrard County in 1817. She was, a member of the Brown family into which the Revolutionary War veteran, also named William Powe, married. The older William married Jerusha Brown.

WRP served in the War of 1812, enlisting in Garrard, and was at the decisive Battle of New Orleans.

WRP left Kentucky for Missouri well before the death of Revolutionary War veteran William Powe in 1839 and was not mentioned in his will.

WRP separated from Margaret Brown and their children in Missouri in 1849 and after marrying again moved to Indiana and then Illinois, where he had additional children.

WRP served in the Battle of New Orleans, January 1815. Copy of lithograph by Kurz and Allison published 1890. Courtesy National Archives.

William Romulus Powe’s connections

WRP states in census records that he was born in Virginia. 

Although Madison County, Kentucky (part of which became Garrard) was in the Commonwealth of Virginia at the time of early settlers, it would have been part of Kentucky well before the time of WRP’s birth in about 1795. However, no evidence of William’s origin in other parts of Virginia has been found, even though some of his descendants believed he was born in Virginia.

The only possible Powe family connection with WRP is with that of Revolutionary War veteran William Powe (1759-1839) of Garrard County, Kentucky. This William Powe married Jerusha Brown, whose relationship with William Romulus Powe’s first wife Margaret Brown was likely as an aunt. A Frederick Brown posted bond for the wedding of WRP and Margaret, which suggests he too could be a relation.

Although WRP has often been confused with the son of William and Jerusha Powe (also named William), he is clearly a different person. William Powe Jr, born about the same time as WRP, always stated he was born in Kentucky.

WRP could have some relationship to the John Powe who appears in both Madison and Garrard counties in 1794, a few years after the Revolutionary War veteran William Powe. The suggestion is that they were related and possibly brothers.

If it was John Powe who brought WRP to Kentucky, the time of arrival is close to coinciding with William’s birth. This might explain why William always stated he was born in Virginia since both John and the elder William were from Virginia. This theory fits the few known facts but it's important to note that there are many gaps in the records.

WRP’s use of 'Romulus' began when he migrated to Missouri, possibly to distinguish himself from William Powe Jr., who migrated to the same county in Missouri at about the same time. A search for the origin of the name Romulus – as a surname or as a paired connection with the name Remus (the mythical founding twins of Rome) revealed nothing to indicate that the name was anything more than a fanciful use by William himself or his parents. 

This idea is reinforced by the fact that William seems to have used ‘original’ rather than family names for his own sons. William did name a daughter Agnes Royston Powe. While there was a Royston family in Garrard County, no prior relationship between the Powe and Royston clans could be discovered.

William Powe senior and John Powe

The most obvious research path for WRP is through William Powe and John Powe, who arrived in Madison and Garrard counties in Kentucky after the Revolutionary War.

William Powe, the Revolutionary War veteran is well-documented and there is enough material for a future item on him. WRP married into the same Brown family as the elder William Powe, which suggests a double family connection. Unfortunately, though there is nothing certain about his ancestors either.

John Powe is more mysterious and for that reason has been assumed to have had some connection to WRP, possibly as his father.

The elder William Powe and John Powe served in the Revolutionary War out of Orange County, Virginia, but the only Poes living there at the time and previous to the war could not be connected to William and John.

‘Powe’ is not the spelling of the name in Virginia, but William and John spelt it that way, as did their children and WRP, whose relationship to them is unknown. WRP and the elder William’s son William Powe Jr. both migrated to Missouri at about the same time, reinforcing a close family connection.

In the end, Leonard’s research showed that it is lack of records which has prevented identification of WRP’s parents. There is some early tradition believed by William Powe junior’s descendants of a connection with WRP’s family, though exactly what that relationship is we don’t yet know.

Next Steps

Among Leonard’s suggestions for next steps are several related to the YDNA project which boil down to ‘get more people to take part’. There is a good chance that Revolutionary war veteran William Powe (1759-1849) who died in Garrard County KY is connected in some way. Some of his numerous descendants are easy to find but none of them wants to take part – and none live near enough for me to ‘drop in’ with a test kit.

He also suggested doing the same search for some other specific family groups, though locating such descendants is more problematic.

I have also agreed to take part in an autosomal test to identify possible Poe ‘cousins’ as recent results from a known relative have shown some promise.

A focus on Orange County, Virginia, records is also a logical option though access to such records, especially the many which are unindexed is likely to be expensive.

Further research on other family connections among early settlers of Garrard County who were from Orange County is also a potential focus.

A critical clue is the Garrard County court record showing John Powe brought two mulatto children to Garrard County from North Carolina. However, without knowing where in North Carolina he brought them from, it is impossible to know where to look. Should evidence emerge showing some connection of the Garrard County John Powe to someone in North Carolina prior to 1794, this could help resolve the mystery.

Do you know a Poe?

Meantime, if you know anyone with the surname Poe or Powe would you please ask them to consider taking part in the YDNA project

Don't rush me. I'm thinking...

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Farrells in the Family and some Riverina Rogues

At last, I’ve begun to learn more about the Farrells in the Family…

What follows is based on notes jotted down on pieces of paper following various conversations with my father – Noel Lyell (1924-2003). They are sorted by the name of the person being described. Dad’s words are in italics. I’ve also recently connected with cousin Steven Farrell and we’ve been able to share information.

Dad’s mother Beatrice Keys (1883-1960) was born in Hillston in the north-west of the Riverina region of New South Wales. Her father, George Alexander Keys, had migrated with his northern Irish Presbyterian parents when he was about 10 years old. 

George married ‘local’ Emma Farrell on 15 May 1879, the daughter of publican Dick Farrell and his wife Kate – who were Catholics.

Richard’s father Mick Farrell had migrated as a carpenter from Cork Ireland as a free settler. Catherine Ahern followed him a few years later and they married in Sydney in 1833.

More about these people in later posts…

Emma Farrell (1860-1949) Dad’s maternal grandmother

I got on very well with her. Several of the stories Dad mentioned probably came from Emma and although he didn’t say so, it’s reasonable to believe that he spent a fair amount of time with his grandmother in his early years when his mother was single.

Her father was from Piney Range.

Met Ned Kelly when they slept on top of the wool cart. ‘Always a gentleman’, his boys helped. 

Lived at Terrence [a terrace?] House in Elizabeth Bay at the end of her life similar to the house Paul Keating later owned. Had a set of friends in Elizabeth Bay and Rose Bay; part of the Farrell circle which she kept to herself. Some connection to Queensland and Charleville.

Remembers her 80th birthday celebration held in Melbourne. This would have been around 8 March 1940 - her actual birthday - and presumably held in Melbourne because that’s where Beatrice, as well as Dad and his brother Al were all living. His Joyce was in the USA. 

Didn’t go to her funeral. He mentioned this several times and it was obviously a great regret. At the time, October 1949, she was in Sydney and Dad was working in Melbourne.

Dad said ‘there were 1,000 bottles of champagne at the wedding’. 
This item may explain why… 
Riverine Grazier, 31 May 1879, p. 2.
Rev. Matthew Smith was a Church of England minister.

Where is Piney Range?

Piney Range gets a fair mention in accounts of the family. But where is it?

The Greater Hume Council explains:
'Known as the ‘crossroads of the Riverina, Walbundrie was a thriving gold rush town of several thousand people. Formerly called ‘Piney Range’, because of extensive stands of Cyprus Pines in the district, the village is now a rural service centre. On 15 June 1855, the Bulgandra (or Walbundrie Reefs) goldfield was proclaimed, eight miles from Piney Range, making Bulgandra the larger village.'

Most of the towns in this story are in the Riverina. Walbundrie is a third of the way north from Albury to Lockhart where the roads point and intersect with a waterway – Billabong Creek. Courtesy

‘Gentleman Jim’

On another occasion, Dad mentioned ‘Gentleman Jim Farrell’ who was a dapper billiardist and ‘took a shilling a point’. This may refer to Emma’s brother James, though he died in 1899. Dad also applied the name ‘Gentleman Jim’ to his grandfather George Keys who was also a billiardist. Keys was certainly a billiardist but I have no other information about whether James Farrell was.  He also had a wool carting business. ‘Also’ because both he said his grandfather George Keys did this as well.

Dad thought the Farrells had a sheep station in the Riverina and he remembered as a young boy on his tricycle when a snake came towards him. A Farrell uncle ‘saved’ him by throwing the snake in a tank.

Farrell family

Dad met one man with two children one his age [i.e. born about 1924] and another three years olderWife was a relative of [his Keys uncle] Hock’s [wife, who was "Annie" Dorothy Hume] he thinks.  Was also a magician [as was his father Al Poe and adopted uncle Maurice Rooklyn], lived on the dole and had a Buick. Went over the new [Sydney] harbour bridge in their Buick. In general, didn’t get on with this family then. The Bridge was opened March 1932 so at this time Dad was with the Lyell family at this time.

There were some tensions between Ivy Lyell and Dad’s natural family which the young teenage Noel may have reflected and may be the reason why he perceived his mother and sister Joyce’ contact with them as something they kept to themselves. By the age of 17, Noel had decided to get to know his natural family again starting with his mother. (Separate note) Lived in Rose Bay.

Jack Farrell

Had two kids a bit older than Dad. If the kids were Dad’s age they would be nephews of Emma so this could be one of the several sons of James Alfred Farrell (1859-1899).

Joshua Farrell (1866-1942)

Dad referred to his maternal grandfather as Josh Farrell but it is the name of his grandmother Emma’s brother who obviously made an impression on him. Josh moved to Charleville in 1919 after the death of his first wife. Charleville certainly features in Dad’s memories of the Farrell family as well as the name Joshua.

Josh Farrell in 1909 at Bathurst court
for charges of larceny and horse-stealing.

Beatrice Keys (1883-1960) Dad’s mother

Pregnant with Noel [Dad speaking of himself in the third person] she picked a hospital [St Margaret’s, Sydney] to have him at, draped a flag over the end of the be for donations for the first boy born on Christmas day that year.
Knew Tex Morton. George Sawley wrote ‘Rose of Mine’ [this needs to be verified] she had the original [score] and sang it sometimes before [her husband Alexander Poe’s] ‘black magic’ show. ‘Daisy Park’ and on the Lachlan River and also Bogan’s Gate [are locations] connected with Keys / Farrell clans.  [Also] Bribey Island [near Brisbane but no further information on this].

“You can tell the gang that we’ll all be there, in our cottage by the sea”. She would sing this to Dad; it was a jolly song, not a lament. [His brother] Jack says she died singing it. I can’t find out anything about this song.

Some relevant information: In 1897, a ballot was conducted by the Forbes Land Board for leasehold land on Big Burrawang. One of the lucky ballotters, Bill Dwyer, drew a block near Gunning Gap between Bogan Gate and Bedgerebong. He pitched his tent on his new farm in the Spring of that year and immediately began digging a well and building his family’s first small house. The Dwyers named their farm Daisy Park after the 'vast areas of white daisies' that grew amongst the box and yarran trees on the western side of the block.  I can’t yet verify if the Keys or Farrells were connected with this land.

[Beatrice was] Intelligent uncanny [I think he meant ‘canny’, but he also saw her as ‘psychic’] likeable and shrewd. Had to resort to many things during the depression to support her kids. When in the air-force [1942-1946], Mum [that is my mother Joan Marsh] went into Harry Rooklyn’s cafĂ© lounge in Sydney when Beatrice was available to read palms and tea-leaves with two of her air force friends. Beatrice was definitely psychic and Mum was later able to recall the veracity of some of her predictions.

George Alexander Keys (1849-1910)

Met him. This is not possible since he died in 1910 and separately Dad mentioned that he was much older than Emma. Obviously, his name lived on and Dad may have merged the stories with memories of another relative perhaps it was Josh Farrell again.

Travelled on bullock drays [with Emma] and slept on top for fear of dingoes. One time fell off after which he slept on a hammock underneath. Sometimes Emma travelled with him without the kids. May have hustled with grandfather Poe using billiards. Was called ‘Gentleman Jim’ when he played billiards. Perhaps the ‘Gentleman Jim’ name was taken from James John ‘Gentleman Jim’ Corbett (1866–1933) an American professional boxer. Boxing seems to have been a popular pastime with the Key and Farrell families as it was with the Lyell family.

Transported wool, [which was] seasonal work. The Keys family had left Hillston by 1890 and lived in Melbourne where George ran a billiard hall for a while before George and Emma separated. Emma returned to New South Wales and George moved to Western Australia where he became a publican and continued to enjoy billiards. He may have visited Ireland before returning to Australia to end his days in Queensland. His father, also named George (1828-1894), remained in Hillston and is buried there.

Hock Keys (1880-1923)

Hock is worth a separate item. He was a famous boxer and son of George Alexander Keys and Emma Farrell. He was Australian Lightweight Champion, well known and well liked in his day. He served in the AIF during World War I, but sadly became an alcoholic and died of pneumonia. He figured prominently in Dad’s memories and was regularly mentioned by Emma, Hock’s mother, who is buried with him. His father was a publican who made sure his customers knew he was Hock’s father, which was presumably good for business.

Smith's Weekly, Sat 26 Apr 1930 Page 20.
Fighters and fearless horsepeople.

Comment from Dad’s sister Joyce, as he recalled it

Joyce had a boyfriend, Arch Richie (introduced by Harry Rooklyn). Arch went to Queensland with Joy [in the 1930s] and looked up the Keys family in Charleville as there was some story of a relative there. On their return, grandma [Emma] said there were three [Farrell] boys, one [in the Navy] and the other two officers during World War I. They (or one) had property at Charleville. 

Again, this is a reference to Josh Farrell.

Dad his sister Joyce and their mother Beatrice – Emma’s daughter – were a family unit in the 1920s, but at the time of this visit Dad was living with his foster family who didn’t like him associating too much with h natural family. 

Do you know more?

These impressions of people are only partial portraits. If any of the names, places or stories sound familiar to you, please let me know. You can leave a comment below or send me a note at

Walbundrie Public School commenced classes in 1878.



I recently started on Twitter and put up a note with no hashtag encouraging Poe men to look at the FTDNA site. In less than a week, 10 viewers clicked on to the Poe YDNA project site out of 33 looks. Not many but it, as a result, I set up a hashtag #YPoeDNA and sent out another tweet and included a picture.

The tweet is “Poe men please provide DNA – Y? It’s the best way to solve our family history mysteries!
The objectives of the tweet are:

Promote the Poe FTDNA project
Encourage more men to take part.
Encourage discussion, information sharing and research on Poe / Powe family history.
Document what’s known.
Reduce ‘speculative’ genealogies.

Write Stuff Editing

Do you need a proofreading/editing service? I can provide this for essays, papers, articles, university assignments, ESL documents, speeches, or press releases.

Send me an email with a Word version of your document and I will return a quote to you. Confidentiality of your work is guaranteed. 

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Australia Day: when would you like it?

Do we need to change the date of Australia Day?

Fifty-six per cent of Australians don't mind when it's held, just so long as there is a national day of celebration.

At least that’s the finding of a recent poll conducted by The Australia Institute.

Interestingly, less than half of the respondents identified the arrival of the First Fleet as the reason why January 26 is the current date. (Actually, they’d arrived earlier in the week at Botany Bay but found it unsuitable…) Almost half of those surveyed believe Australia Day should not be on a day that is offensive to Indigenous Australians.

Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge said the lack of knowledge about the historical reasons for January 26 showed a need for better education and rejected calls for the date of Australia Day to change.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale, took the poll as an endorsement for his view that the date should be changed, but Australia Institute deputy director Ebony Bennett said no clear answer had emerged from the poll about an alternative date.

For some, there are many other issues which we need to address first: energy prices, jobs and economic growth, the NBN, cyber-security... For many there’s plenty of reason to celebrate whatever the day - the food, the drink, the sun, the bush and the cultural diversity.

But 26 January marks the date the first fleet arrived in Sydney Cove and set up the first permanent European settlement, marking the first step on the road to nationhood. Is it all just a misunderstanding?

If there’s any hope of a constructive outcome to the discussion, agreement on an alternative date - or perhaps an alternative reason - for the day is needed.

So here are what seem to be the realistic options; alternative days and stories to celebrate our great nation, days we can all be proud of.

1 January - Federation

On 1 January 1901, the six British self-governing colonies - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia (by the skin of its teeth) - united to form the Commonwealth of Australia.

Really this is the obvious alternative. It is the point when Australia as the political entity we know it today began.

The event was celebrated in Sydney, where 500 000 people lined the route of the 'Great Inaugural Procession' leading from the Domain to Centennial Park. Over 100 000 spectators witnessed Lord Hopetoun being sworn-in as Australia's first Governor-General. He then proclaimed the Commonwealth of Australia and swore-in the Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, and his ministry.

The year before, following a constitutional convention and a series of referenda, delegates from the colonies met Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in London. Negotiations resulted in a final version of the Constitution Bill which was passed by the British Parliament. Queen Victoria gave her assent on 9 July 1900. In the same month, a referendum was held in Western Australia and the 'federationists' were victorious. A proclamation was signed by the Queen on 17 September 1900 declaring that on 1 January 1901 the six colonies would be united under the name of Commonwealth of Australia. Lord Hopetoun was appointed Governor General and on 31 December 1900, he commissioned the first Commonwealth Ministry, headed by Edmund Barton.

As an aside, apparently, New South Wales premier Henry Parkes in celebrating the centenary of the Colony in 1888 considered renaming it Australia! Parkes took a breath and decided not to so and embraced the idea of creating a federation of all of continents colonies. Either way, he was going to be the Father of Australia!

So, what’s the objection to this date?  Unfortunately, 1 January is also New Year's Day. So, it might not be ideal for us to commemorate our country when we are busy heralding the new year – or perhaps recovering from the heralding.

So, while it might be the right event to commemorate it happened on an inconvenient date.

1 January 1901. 100 000 people witnessed the ceremony in Centennial Park, Sydney when Australia was declared a nation. National Library of Australia, album 329/51.

7 February – Establishment of the first Australian Colony

This one has not been proposed by any group I’m aware of. See what you think. 

I’ve written about it before. It’s true that something different did begin in 1788, so perhaps that is worth acknowledging. Nobody called the land ‘Australia’ at that stage. ‘Terra Australis’ or ‘New Holland’ were used and it was later that Mathew Flinders suggested ‘Australia’ as less of a mouthful.

Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales, became aware of Flinders' preference for the name Australia and used it in his dispatches to England. In 1817 he recommended to the Colonial Office that it be officially adopted and in 1824 British Admiralty agreed that the continent (not the Colony) should be known as Australia.

The Colony was New South Wales and it covered most of what would become Australia, except for Western Australia.

Why is it better than 26 January?  

It was the day Arthur Phillip was formally proclaimed Governor of the Colony. It had taken two weeks to get everyone off the ships and establish a settlement. Phillip’s instructions were quite clear. Amongst them, he was to ‘endeavour by every possible means to open an intercourse with the natives and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all [the King’s] subjects to live in amity and kindness with them.’ 

Translation: talk to the locals, become friends and make sure the people under your command do the same.

These were worthy aims, and worth remembering as such.  Subsequent failure to live up to them underlines their idealism and value and history has proven them wise.

Once seriously considered it would be interesting to know how people react to this idea. A minor benefit is that it’s still in the summer!

An interesting legal question is the issue of recognition of the indigenous peoples. Philip’s job description implies interesting ideas; 

1 – there were people here (seems obvious), 

2 – he was not governing them but was to seek good relations with them,

3- this could have been the basis for some kind of understanding – or possibly even a treaty. Instead, misunderstanding overtook good intentions (though Philip himself took efforts to restore goodwill) and the eventual Constitution could be seen as continuing to not seek governance of indigenous people.

The situation became a lost opportunity on the issue of indigenous relations.

By 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Colony indigenous Australian began to publicly characterise 26 January as invasion day but following this, there were various points of progress, without a rethink of 1788.

The Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals)1967 provided for a referendum to amend section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution and repeal section 127 giving the Commonwealth the power to make laws regarding Aboriginals and ordering that Aboriginals be counted in the census. The referendum was approved by the Australian population and enabled the Commonwealth to accept wider but not exclusive responsibility for Aboriginal affairs. This was a significant step along the path to reconciliation.

This was more consistent with Philip’s brief than what had evolved without reflective thought instead.

With regard to indigenous relations, 7 February could celebrate the best of intentions which in spite of setbacks has managed to shine through and continues to shine as a set of visionary principles in all areas of life including indigenous affairs. The ideals ‘amity and kindness’ of are entirely consistent with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples.

7 February: a better memorial for Australia - and Governor Philip.
Image via Wikipedia.

1 March – Australia starts operating…

This is the anniversary of the first Commonwealth Government taking control of Australia.

Former federal minister Ian Macfarlane of Groom, in Toowoomba, Queensland has backed calls to celebrate our nation on this day. It would mark the day Australia's first government began operating after Federation in 1901. ‘It's the day that represents Australians coming together as one nation under one government’, Macfarlane said.

An added bonus? It's still in summer and isn't already a public holiday like January 1 – because Australia is so great it deserves its own special day separate to New Year's Day.

The argument against it is that it has no imagination to it and there was no significant public ceremony accompanying it. A summer holiday is important but it's not the only important thing.

9 May – The Opening of the First Australian Parliament

The First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia was opened at the Melbourne Exhibition Building on 9 May 1901.

The new King of England, Edward VII, sent his son and heir, the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V), to Australia as his representative. The Duke drove through Melbourne streets lined with cheering crowds to the Exhibition Building, where he declared the Parliament open in front of 12 000 guests.

At 11.30 am, the senators-elect assembled on a low platform in front of a dais in the Main Hall of the Exhibition Building. The Duke and the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, and their parties entered at 12 noon and ascended the dais. The elected members of the House of Representatives, waiting in the western nave, were called by the Usher of the Black Rod and took their places next to the senators.

The Clerk of the Parliaments read the Letters Patent of King Edward VII empowering the Duke to open the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Duke then addressed the parliamentarians, saying that his father was moved by the generous aid offered by the Australian colonies in the South African war, and in service in China, and expressing the King’s ‘thankfulness and heartfelt satisfaction [at] the completion of that political union of which this Parliament is the embodiment.’ The Duke declared the Parliament open; there was a fanfare of trumpets, and a cable message from the King was read out. Lord Hopetoun administered an oath of allegiance to each of the senators and members, while they remained in their places.

The Melbourne Argus reported the following day that: ‘The ceremony was marked by the splendor and solemn impressiveness which befitted its historic importance. By the hand of Royalty, in the presence of the greatest concourse of people that Australia has seen in one building, and with splendid pomp and ceremonial, the legislative machinery of the Commonwealth was yesterday set in motion.’

This was a big day of celebration and would compete with 1 January as a logical day for national celebration. It has the ‘advantage' of not already being a public holiday. Macfarlane dismissed this option ‘because it’s way too cold for a beach or pool party’.  


The First Parliament was opened in the Exhibition Building, Melbourne, on 9 May 1901 with 12,000 guests and thousands more cheering the procession. Image: Senate Resource Centre

1 September - Wattle Day

Wattle Day is a day of celebration in Australia on the first day of September each year, which is the official start of the Australian spring. This is the time when many Acacia species ('wattles' in Australia), are in flower. Many people wear a sprig of the flowers and leaves to celebrate the day.

Australia's national floral emblem is the Golden Wattle. It has been witness to the whole of the Australian story. It has been in the land for more than 30 million years and has welcomed us all – Aboriginal, colonials, post-war and 21st-century migrants. It has no historical baggage. It is our colours – the green and gold.

Could Wattle Day resolve the conflict around an Australia Day celebrated on 26 January? National Wattle Day was officially proclaimed 25 years ago. Could it work with Australia Day to celebrate Australia, the land, the people and the nation? Terry Fewtrell, President of the Wattle Day Association, says: ‘National Wattle Day would not compete with Australia Day, rather it would complete Australia Day. It would do what Wattle has always done – unite us.’

These sentiments are worthy but the date itself is not significant. It has evolved out of a Tasmanian celebration and certainly had general acceptance in the nineteenth century but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough for a celebration of nationhood.

It's a worthy festival of Australian spring and unity. It might be a pair but it's not a replacement Australia Day.


As far as I can see there are no other serious contenders.

Various other days have been suggested which seem to match the sentiment that any day could be ‘Australia Day’. However, these either have no national significance or commemorate some specific event which probably continue to be worth celebrating in their own right. ANZAC Day is the obvious one in this category as are other days that mark progress points in the nation's development.

Which one would you vote for?

Also read:

Ancestry - 14 Days Free