The centenary of Australian federation prompted a nationwide debate about Australia's identity and history. An extraordinarily comprehensive series of projects events were co-ordinated, and sometimes funded, by the National Council for the Centenary of Federation. Most were organised and funded by individual committees and organisations within the states and territories.
To headline its year of events the New South Wales Centenary of Federation Committee planned a parade and ceremony replicating and updating the parade of soldiers, dignitaries and community groups that took place in Sydney on January 1 1901 - culminating in the swearing in of the first Governor General and the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia in Centennial Park.
On January 1 2001 the biggest street parade ever held in Australia moved through Sydney's streets from the Domain to Moore Park. The 'Journey of a Nation' was intended to represent Australia's development since 1901 with a large array of thematic floats, 'push units', costumed performers and other participants. Several leading designers were enlisted to create the floats and costumes which were organised within 11 sections: 'Nations Within a Nation' celebrated Indigenous culture; 'New South Wales' lead other state and territory floats and was intended to 'demonstrate the bold creative spirit' of New South Wales; 'War and Peace' acknowledged 'the heroes of Australians at war, their families, the carers, peacemakers and pacifists in the last 100 years'; 'Helping Hands' recognised the work of community organisations and volunteers; 'Nation on the Move' looked at communications, finance, transport and construction; 'Good Sports' celebrated our nation's sporting culture; 'Who Are We?' represented social diversity and historical change since 1901; 'Did We Do That?' explored some of Australia's inventions; 'Artistically Speaking' portrayed some of icons of Australian music, radio, literature, theatre, film and television; 'All The Rage' presented a decade by decade parade of fashions and trends throughout the twentieth century; 'Tomorrow' explored 'who we are now and the future and maturity of Australia'. After the parade two ceremonies were enacted in Centennial Park. The first was a re-enactment of the 1901 swearing in ceremony. The second, in the evening, was series of talks and performances presenting a critical analysis of Australian history.
The parade was an ambitious attempt to present a modern, inclusive version of the 1901 parade and ceremony which was marked by predominance of soldiers and dignitaries from across the British Empire, and the absence of women and Aborigines. Its reception however was mixed. Many appreciated the democratic sentiment of the event. Others thought the parade failed as a spectacle because it was simply too big and cumbersome - particularly following the dynamism of the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies.
This Mr Squiggle costume was part of the parade's section titled 'Artistically Speaking', which celebrated well-known characters from Australia television, radio, film and literature. This section was designed by Eamon D'Arcy who also designed various sections for the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Sydney Paralympics.
The original puppet Mr Squiggle, 'the man from the Moon', was created by Norman and Margaret Hetherington in 1959. He has been one of the most enduring and beloved of Australian television characters since his first appearance on ABC television on 1 July 1959. 'Mr Squiggle' was the longest-running program on Australian television and is thought to be the longest-running pre-school children's television program in the world. Along with Playschool, Humphrey B. Bear and more recently Bananas in Pyjamas, Mr Squiggle is one of the most recognised children's television characters. The Mr Squiggle character has an gentle simplicity and low-tech charm. Children send in their scribbles and the pencil-nosed marionette Mr Squiggle turns them into pictures. He interacts with the presenter and with the other characters (the grumpy Doormat, the impatient Blackboard, Bill Steamshovel and Gus the Snail). The program is written by Margaret Hetherington and the puppet is operated by Norman Hetherington. The program was axed from regular ABC television after its contract expired on 30 June 2001. It was subsequently shown on the ABC's digital children's channel Fly until the entire channel was axed as a result of budget cuts in 2003.