This costume was worn by Pat Dale for her role as a gum blossom in the 'Garden of native flowers' section of the 1938 Public School Children's Festival. The programme described the Festival as aiming, 'by means of changing colour, rousing rhythms, and pleasing pageantry to recall symbolically the people from whom we came, the land which drew us, our settlement and progress and a vision of world unity through co-operation.'
In 1938 Australians celebrated the 150th anniversary of European settlement with a wide range of activities including parades, pageants, sporting competitions, exhibitions and an air race. Although these took place across the country, Sydney was the principal seat of celebration. As the promotional brochure, Australia's Festive Year, declared: 'Sydney is Australia's oldest, greatest and gayest city, [and] will rightly be the centre of the 150th Anniversary Celebrations.' Festivities commenced on 26 January 1938 with a re-enactment of Phillip's landing and ended with the 'glorious climax' of Anzac Day. Sydney school children participated in a number of events including a 'Public School Children's Festival' at Sydney Cricket Ground on April 6 and 7. As the official programme stated this was not an historical reenactment, but rather 'by means of changing colour, rousing rhythm and pleasing pageantry [aimed] to recall symbolically the people from whom we came, the land which drew us, our settlement and progress and a vision of world unity through co-operation'. Some 12,000 school children took part in a series of 13 tableaux ranging from 'Homeland' -- where 2,064 girls from Domestic Science Schools [danced] in picturesque national costumes' -- through representations of native birds and flowers, wool and wheat to the 'Wheel of Progress' where all 12,000 participants represented this 'symbol of world unity through understanding and co-operation'.
The program described 'A most spectacular gathering of 1,500 primary school boys in the rich plumage of birds: Magpies, Parrots, Cockatoos, Kookaburras, Galahs, and Regent Bower Birds, who amid bird calls, will by characteristic movements finally provide a background for a few of our animals, the much loved lumbering Koalas ... and the world-renowned Kangaroos.' As in many of the sesquicentennial events, Aboriginal people were represented -- in this case by 900 primary school boys performing a full 'corroboree' -- although scant regard was had for the fact they had little to celebrate.
It was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground on April 6 and 7 and was one of a number of major parades, pageants and festivals organised to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Australia. Although commemorative material such as ceramics, glass and textiles survives, it is rare to find a paper costume such as this which provides an important reminder of the symbols used to represent Australia in 1938, symbols that still have currency today as was evident in the children dressed as wildflowers for the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.