ACT News

First Australia Day badge features kookaburra

A collector since childhood, Mark Taylor has discovered a new element for his hobby, researching and writing the history of fundraising badges in Australia.

Mr Taylor is not into the military or money side of badge collection. It is the stories they tell which turns him on. He began posting his Australian Badge Guides on a Facebook page from 2012, triggering interest among mostly baby boomers and veterans.  

Australia Day badge, 1916.
Australia Day badge, 1916. Photo: Supplied

Mr Taylor, of Hackett, reckons his Facebook hits have risen by 1000 per cent since kicking off the page: facebook.com/MARKIVIST.

Anzac Day badges always prove popular and there are numerous ones for Red Cross and other worthy causes. Some have been hard to research because they have no year inscribed on them.

Taylor, who calls himself 'Mark the Australian Badge Guide guy', says happily his posts have not stirred angst or uncovered nutters in the community.

Of particular interest lately has been a badge featuring Sir John Jellico. It may belong to a collection of patriotic buttons which raised money for a memorial hall and Returned Soldiers' Association. Among eight buttons is a metal one with the inscription, 'Greater love /hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his: friends.'

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Following is a timely example of the Badge Guy's research on an Australia Day badge:

"Did you know that this humble little badge (smaller than the size of a 10c piece) was one of the first Australian manufactured badges to adopt a distinctly Australian note?  Sold to the public in 1916 as part of that year's Australia Day celebrations, this little brown and white button depicts a kookaburra calling 'Coo-ee', a word which was believed to be used by indigenous Australians prior to European settlement.

Academic and social historian Manning Clark noted that as early as 1808, emancipated convicts in the colony of New South Wales celebrated their  'love of the land they live in' on the colony's anniversary date, 26 January.

However, as we all know there is today conjecture about the celebration of Australia Day and whether it should be celebrated.  However, there has also been much conjecture in the past about when to celebrate Australia Day. For example, in 1905 Empire Day, was instituted in Australia and observed annually on 24 May, the birthday of the late Queen Victoria, and this day too was not without controversy. 

The Australian Natives' Association was keenly interested in finding an appropriate national day for Australia; however, the NSW branch of the ANA believed that the date, 26 January, came with baggage associated with indigenous dispossession, and therefore proposed replacing Anniversary Day with Foundation Day on 29 April, the day Captain Cook first landed on the east coast of Australia in 1770. But in the 1930s, the ANA (Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin were among its members) ultimately voted to retain the date of English settlement as the official date to mark Australia Day.

During World War I, the date 30 July 1915, became Australia Day as it (and it must be said, days subsequent to Australia Day so all the badges could be sold) was seen as a way of raising funds for the war.  Increasingly badges would appeal to, and draw upon the pride of Australians in their soldiers' achievements in the Great War, and their growing confidence in Australia. Australia Day badges were sold to aid the Australia Day Fund for Australian soldiers who were wounded and the public were encouraged to apply for a button 'in order to avoid disappointment'. 

So there you have it – a little badge with a big story to tell.