July 2017

Dreams of nationhood uncovered

I found this badge while metal detecting on an old military site in SE Queensland but cannot find any information on it.

Front of the buckle. Photo courtesy of Richard Danny Oostenbrink

Reverse of the buckle. Photo courtesy of Richard Danny Oostenbrink



Baggy Green cricket hat showing coat of arms, 1928 Rugby card with another variant of the coat of arms.Whilst I have been able to turn up quite a few examples of the Advance Australia motto combined with a variety of coats of arms, unfortunately I have not been able to come up with an exact match for your buckle.  The badge on the buckle is one of the many unofficial patriotic coats of arms adopted for use prior to Federation and the subsequent granting of an Australian coat of Arms in 1908, which was then changed to the current device in 1912. The Emu and Kangaroo were often used as  ‘supporters’ to these shields which in this case features a  sailing ship, a golden fleece, a fouled anchor and a garb of wheat separated by a Southern Cross above the motto “Advance Australia”. As these were non-official badges, variations are common particularly in the positioning of the emu and kangaroo supporters and the items displayed on the shield which were most commonly a ship, a golden fleece, a pick and shovel and a garb of wheat which were symbolic of Australia’s wealth in maritime trade, wool growing, mining, and agriculture.

The motto “Advance Australia” is reported in use as early as the 1830’s and by 1844 the Sydney Morning Herald could write:

Advance Australia is the poet’s song,

Advance Australia patriot’s hearts prolong.

During the late 1800’s it became the rallying cry of the federation movement and was adopted as the motto of the Australian Natives Association, who also used variations of the badge.

By the 1880’s variations of the badge and motto are appearing quite commonly on the portico of government and commercial buildings across the then un-federated colonies. Similar, though not identical badges with the Advance Australia motto were adopted by representative Australian rugby and cricket teams for matches against England prior to federation. The famous Baggy Green cap still worn by Australian test cricketers features yet another variant of the same pre Federation badge, and “Advance Australia” was apparently used as the standard shouted reply to the cry of  “Rule Britannia” during Cricket and Rugby test matches in the years prior to WWI.  

The Advance Australia motto was to become immortalised in P.D. McCormick’s ‘Advance Australia Fair’ which was the published in 1878 and eventually became the national anthem 106 years later. It was however considered very much the unofficial national song and was even performed by a 10 000 strong choir in Centennial Park as part of the federation celebrations in 1901.

The badge and motto can be found on a wide variety of items from penny badges to gold watch fobs and brooches dating from the late 1800’s through to the First World War era.  I have found one example similar to yours which from its mounts appears to be a hat badge. It is possible that your buckle may have started life as cap badge and was then attached to a plate to make it into a belt buckle.

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