Wattle—the emblem of our land

by Julia Robinson

Golden wattle. Image source: Australian National Botanic Gardens

September in Australia means that wattle trees are in bloom, fragrant and full of colour. The blossom can be any shade of yellow from pale cream to deep gold, depending on the species. The colours of the wattle are the inspiration for the green and gold, Australia’s national colours, officially proclaimed in 1984 (but used as sporting colours for much longer). Wattle blossom has long been emblematic of Australia; branches of wattle appeared on the Australian Coat of Arms in 1912, and in 1988 the profusely flowering golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was named as the national floral emblem.  Continue reading

The Fatal Shore

The wreck of the Loch Ard in 1878 near Cape Otway, Victoria. Image source: State Library of Victoria

by Mark Gwynn

Last week on 6 August renowned art critic, historian, and man of letters Robert Hughes, AO, died in New York at the age of 74. Hughes, who left Australia in the 1960s to pursue opportunities overseas, is one of a group of expatriate Australian trailblazers and intellectuals that includes Clive James and Germaine Greer.  Hughes had a successful career as a writer and critic before undertaking his major historical work The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787–1868. This international bestseller, published in the year before Australia’s 1988 bicentenary, sought to re-examine the foundation of modern Australia and the role that transported criminals from Britain had in this story.

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Lords and lamingtons

by Julia Robinson

This week marks the birthday of the second Baron Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. Baron Lamington – full name Charles Wallace Alexander Napier Cochrane-Baillie – may have been the inspiration for the lamington, a small cake dipped in chocolate icing, rolled in coconut, and considered as Australian as the Anzac biscuit or the iced vovo.

The first mention of lamington appears in print in 1901 in the Brisbane Queenslander a few days before Lord and Lady Lamington left Government House at the end of their antipodean posting. The editor of the ‘Women’s Club’ column replies to a correspondent: ‘Native Born.—Have not heard of a recipe for  “Lamington cake”. Can you give some clue to the appearance and ingredients of the cake?’ (14 December 1901) Continue reading

The earliest words in Australian English

by Julia Robinson

Dampier's illustration of a 'guano' (a goanna), in 'A new voyage round the world' (1699).

We posted a blog recently with an interactive graph (devised by Tim Sherratt) showing the first occurrences of Australian words in print, as they appear in the text of the Australian National Dictionary (AND). One blog-reader asked us about the words that predate the First Fleet’s arrival in Botany Bay in 1788. Continue reading

Print and Australian English

The Fawkner Press - the first newspaper in Melbourne (Melbourne Advertiser) was printed on this press in 1838. Image source: Museum Victoria

by Amanda Laugesen

The Centre’s recent posts on digital tools are exciting ones for me. The tools developed by Tim Sherratt (see also his terrific work on analysing the data of the National Library’s Trove: http://wraggelabs.com/emporium/trove-tools/) allow us to extract significant information that can illuminate important questions about the history of Australian English.

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A bicentenary of the first dictionary written in Australia

James Hardy Vaux

by Mark Gwynn

On the 5th of July 1812 the first dictionary ever compiled in Australia was presented to the Commandant of Newcastle (NSW) by one of the prisoners under his charge—James Hardy Vaux, a petty criminal. At this time Newcastle was a secondary penal settlement for more hardened and inveterate prisoners. This was Vaux’s second period of transportation to Australia for theft—he was sentenced to twelve months hard labour for receiving stolen goods in Sydney.

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Digital Tools II: Analyzing the first use of Australian words

by Sarah Ogilvie

Here is another digital tool which analyzes the first time Australian words were used in print (cf. our previous blog about mining Australian sources). This graph shows the dates of first quotations for all the words in the Australian National Dictionary. Hover over any point along the graph and you are given the date and number of first quotations from that year.

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When Great Britain was home

Royal Visit on the occasion of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, 2006. Image source: theroyalfirm.com

This week Australia’s constitutional monarch, Elizabeth II, celebrated sixty years of reigning over us. It seems a good time to consider Australia’s relationship with Great Britain as it is reflected in the names we have called the mother country since Australia’s infancy. Continue reading

Australia – the land of the fair go

The original Eureka flag flown at the Eureka Stockade in 1854. The Eureka flag was used in the shearers' strikes of 1891. Image source: Ballarat Fine Art Gallery


by Mark Gwynn

In discussions about the Federal budget in the coming weeks we will hear both sides of politics claim that Australians deserve a fair go. Indeed Australian politics have been awash in recent times with words reflecting an age that many may have thought belonged to an earlier period of socialists versus capitalists, left versus right, workers versus employers. We have the politics of envy, class warfare, and of course the right of all Australians to a fair go.

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