By Linley Bignoux
Green and Gold bonds Australia – The impact of national colours.
Green and Gold bonds Australia – The impact of national colours.
Photos and text by Linley Bignoux
What is it with colour, or colours and shades to be precise, that make people attached to them, even contrived to the notion of their importance? Throughout history, psychologists and sociologists have pointed out that colours have undeniable bonds or attachments to people on an individual and collective level, alluding to the empirical fact that these bonds and connections extend to countries and their national identities, which are largely symbolic.
One nation that clinches a unique place in its fervent attachment to colours is Australia and it is green and gold colours to be fastidious.
Green and gold-the quintessential Australian colour, of course apart from the heraldic colours of the national flag, has given the Australian people a sense of identity and gratification for over 100 years amidst the country’s sporting culture, consciously and subconsciously. But if you observe, you may find that this attachment to these nostalgic, even strident colours, is quite inimitable and not just amongst the sporting fraternity or fans, green and gold transcend sports and enters the Australian identity.
Like, frog legs to the French and pasta to Italians, or even the American hot dog and hamburger. The colours green and gold are emphatically Australian. Australia is not the only country to represent these colours, however. Jamaica, South Africa and Brazil notably don these colours as well, however in various shades. In the Australian context, it can be said the connection between the national flag colour and Australian sporting representation colour is non-apparent, suggesting that an underlying cultural factor remains unbroken.
Within Australia’s dynamic sporting fabric lies its culture and within this lays the Green and Gold bond, so much that worldwide these colours have become earmarked as the Aussie colour and primarily a national symbol, apart from the stereotypical Crocodile Dundee and Holden Ute ploy or even the exported Fosters beer. Within it a group of green and gold “sporting staff” have been flaunting, the colours for generations. They have been dubbed many things in the past and present, certainly in Australian sporting history.
The ever-present and vast national sporting teams of Australia-the Socceroo’s, Kookaburras, Opals, Wallabies, Joeys, Matildas, Hookeyroos, Boomers, Dolphins, the Diamonds to name a few, and the various uniformed Olympic and Commonwealth games teams representing Australia domestically and in the international arena.
As too with individual sportsmen and sportswomen, they are of course the collective identity –Green and Gold, and the colours have rarely if not ever diverted from the standard acceptance of the green and gold shades, which have been entrenched in the Australian sporting psyche and that of Australia in general.
The Green and Gold is a name synonymous with Australian culture and Australians and characteristically with its national sporting teams. However, the bonds do transcend sport and its fan network in the high sport–orientated island continent nation. The Green and Gold Colours have a peculiar and “prototypical” beginning with prominence, in not just sports but Australia’s society in general.
Unlike many countries around the globe utilizing their flag colours, the colours were officially proclaimed in 1984 by the Australian government and the then Governor-General Sir Ninian Martin Stephen as the official national colour.
However, before the various national teams wore them the bonds were rigid. Indeed the bonds go way back. Australia’s first representative Cricket Team famously wore the famous colours in 1899, said to be the first appearance on the international stage.
Australia uses Green and Gold uniquely, not opting for the national flag colours, red, blue and white, unlike many national teams from other countries, with the Australian Olympic team adopting “green and wattle” in 1908, with the Wallabies, Australia rugby team, donning the uniform in 1928 for the first time.
The Australian government officially signifies the holistic importance of the Green and Gold colour, which many believe derived from the Golden Wattle, Australia’s national floral emblem or (Acacia pycnantha Benth as it is known in scientific circles.
It is also widely believed that as one species of a large genus of flora growing across Australia, the golden wattle is a symbol of unity and ideally suitable to withstand Australia’s droughts, winds and bushfire resilience, representing the spirit of the Australian people and its sporting culture which is translated into the Green and Gold. With the Australian government recognizing the “tradition” and usage of the national colours, Australians are unobstructed in their custom of the use of the national colours.
In 1928, NSW and QLD Rugby Unions settled that ‘the Australian amateur representative colours of green and gold should be implemented. In 1929 when New Zealand toured Australia, the first official Australian Jersey was headed – an emerald green jersey with the Australian Coat of Arms and green leg socks with green and gold bars on the jersey, further cementing the colours in Australian history.
In 1961, the Wallabies sported a gold jersey with green lettering and trim; they changed from a primarily green jersey to avoid a colour clash with the Springboks of South Africa, a big no amongst Australians. The rivalry hitting feverish heights with the African country for decades that surpasses all sports, more notably Cricket and Rugby, much like the NZ and England rivalry throughout post-colonial history.
Rod Beach from Australiana Online believes that Green and Gold have a special place in the hearts of Australians which stems from its eagerness to be distinct from other nationalities and consequently from other national sporting teams.
“The colours, red, white and blue, the colours of our national flag could be easily confused with the colours of other countries. Australians need colours to distinguish ourselves from other teams” “I think a lot of Australians can relate to green and gold colours, this could easily relate to the large amounts of golden sand on our beaches and green of the bush and parks, often seen fronting the beaches,” Rod adds.
The Green and Gold Army’s Marke Van Aken says that the green and gold bond is much more than colour but an affinity with being Australian itself, not just reserved for national sporting teams. “The colours connect with Australians, particularly strongly, I think because they are uniquely Australian. Not many countries have such a bright, almost outlandish colour in their kit.
“In recent years, we have seen teams adopt a darker and richer gold in its uniform, much like the Rugby side, the Wallabies. In the past we have been more yellow than gold,” Mark said.
The Green and Gold, however, is not the only Australian symbol, and that goes for sports as well. The Boxing Kangaroo has long been heralded as a national symbol, the crux commonly referred to as the Southern Cross or Stars of the Southern Cross, used by many national teams, notably Australian Olympic Teams and Commonwealth Games teams are distinctive.
To comprehend the attachments with the colour, many social pundits and political commentators have suggested that because of Australia’s past affiliation with its former colonial power Britain, the country when it became independent needed a national identity to set itself apart.
Coupled with the strong and independent psyche of Australians that was forged out of being independent of Britain, sport and the green and gold were the obvious way to nation-building, one that sociologists recently pointed out still exists today, subconsciously and consciously amongst Australians.
Some prominent media commentators have argued that the government include many migrants coming to settle in Australia to implement an integration program that includes sport to embrace the new nation they have come to live in and wear the national symbols, like the various green and gold jerseys and scarves of Australia’s national sporting teams, iterating it is a virtuous assimilation tool to be regarded as inclusive in Australian society.
John Crampton from the Australian Psychological Society Media Unit and Performance Enhancement Systems says that the Green and Gold colours raise interesting issues when looking at the psychological and marketing aspects of the famed Australian national colour. John explains that issues that come up with the loyalties, identification and nationalistic fervour are intrinsically and inherently attached to the colours are dynamic and come down to perceptions.
“Whilst most public surveys are likely to identify green and gold as Australia’s national colours, you would struggle to get a single view on the shade of it, the green, gold and/or yellow, traditional alignments of the green and gold with Australian athletes and teams have become superseded by the marketing of team identities, such as the Kookaburras, Wallabies and the Socceroo’s team and merchandise like rugby scarves or individual personalities like Warnie and Pup,” John says.
“The confusion that enters the public domain through the fashion-based saying of the green and gold and /or through the use of other colour options such as blue and gold makes it hard to answer the overall reasons,” John adds.
“I feel more Australian when representing the country in green and gold than in blue and gold. That has to reflect my age and the traditions many of our major sports have come from. If you ask a 15-year-old I suspect you will get quite a different reasoning and response. As a result, the contemporary sports fan is less likely to be affected by the green and gold than their parents or grandparents,” John explains.
Currently in the world out of 220 countries, the only country to exercise the Green and Gold colours is South Africa, but the shading is seen to be Dark green and gold, Jamaica is near, but by far is more yellow, although Brazil looks close.
The African Union, A pan-African political organization employs green and gold as its diplomatic symbol, however, its bonds are questionable as a diplomatic entity of a completely African continent encompassing many national ideologies, not the one, like that of Australia.
Many countries use the colours of their flags, like that in Europe, for example, blue is quite predominate amongst European countries as it signifies part or wholly the various national flags and has heraldic significance, but as with many countries the usage of a flag, colours transcends to national sporting teams and national symbols overall. “I don’t intentionally were the green and gold colours often.
The colours are reserved for international sporting events or occasions such as Australia Day (National Day). We sometimes use the green and gold colour combination when packing items to send overseas like tissue paper if it’s available. I’m not sure if the receiver of the package recognizes the colours as our national colours, but it makes us feel good!” says Rob Beach.
“When we see our sporting team or sportsperson wearing the green and gold in international sporting events the team or sportsperson gets our attention and support, but South African teams are excluded!” Rob adds.
Mark van Aken explains, “I wear the colours only when the national team is playing. The upside of the vibrant gold is that it stands out and is unique. Nevertheless, it also means the Socceroo’s kit is not as fashionable as say, England’s plain white strip and you are less likely to wear it casually.”
Of course, above and beyond the iconic and spotting representation of the colours, organizations like the Mary McKillop Foundation, a charity that provides funding for projects to needy Australians has a Green and Gold Day every year and encourages people to wear Australia’s national colours and join in the celebration of being Australian and helping those in need and to celebrate the “Australian spirit” through their charity work.
The Australian University of Sport in collaboration with The Australian Sports Commission, once a year offers the Green and Gold awards across many sports disciplines including football, athletics and Australian rules football to name a few.
As for the national holiday, the 26th of January, when many organizations and people across the vast Australian continent indulge in national celebrations wearing and holding flags of green and gold amongst the national flag-waving.
Sociologists have explained this bond as nationalistic by pointing out that it is attributed to understanding why Australia has become a more nationalistic place in the past 20 years. They assert that nationalism is a reaction to globalisation and increased immigration in many industrialised countries, where the Green and Gold national flag becomes a symbol of stability in times of rapid change, and the identification of the Green and Gold becomes more and more, well… Australian, as generations change within the country.
On the other hand, some psychologists have exclaimed that yellow/gold is the liveliest colour to the eye. It represents adolescence, enjoyment, contentment, sunshine and success. It is a cheery energetic colour so to speak. Green transmits the colour of nature and health. Representing growth, nature, money, fertility and safety. Green is a relaxing colour that is tranquil on the eye and has a healing power to it, often used to represent anything having to do with wellbeing.
Moreover, the Green and Gold bonds are more than a colour or a marketing campaign that has endured over 100 years or so, it is what it represents, a national perception, which evokes an adoption of national identity in terms of Australia’s history, has commonly been the result of a response by an influential group or groups that are unconvinced with traditional identities.
Jason Cavaclchini from Melbourne, a staunch soccer fan of the Socceroo’s-Australia’s national football team, points out that in terms of the national colours, the shades provide a cementing by all Australians of different ethnic backgrounds giving the world game football as an example. “The green and gold’s importance on Australia’s sporting landscape is a big thing because it’s the only thing that unites Australia as a whole.”
“Soccer is usually associated with immigrants who came to Australia but now has attracted the whole nation no matter what background or religion…..there is no segregation with the green and gold everyone is one,” Jason exclaims.
“It’s very similar to the Italian soccer team the nation of Italy treats it as a religion more than the roman catholic church ….the whole country stops when the Azzurri play it’s an amazing sight of sheer happiness and sometimes sadness I know I have seen it for myself …..It’s a boiling pot full of emotions, ”Jason says.
“Now this emotion was felt when the Socceroo’s qualified for the world cup 2006 …being at that game I have never felt more proud to be an Australian than that night …there were people of all backgrounds religions all walks of life all-singing cheering and crying together as one”
Certainly, what remains of the bonds do go way back, as Australia sought to form an independent nation in the 1900s from Britain, the colours are believed to be a by-product of strong independence coupled with a thriving lust to be successful, which heralded in the colours, stereotypical of many former colonies around the world.
Over the years the Green and Gold became what signifies and identifies Australians as one entity; sports and culture were fused to later become the collective spirit of a nation, more so Australia has embraced multiculturism over the past 60 years or so.
Australian Times Editor Time Martin says, “I instantly recognise the sporting colours of green and gold with Australia. Green and gold are the colours that have come to define our nation, far more than the blue, red and white of our flag. We have taken the green and gold into our hearts and our psyche and proudly display them with pride.”
“I do think they are the most important national colours, they were around before the flag and will be around after it is gone. They are unique to Australia. Brazil and South Africa may lay claim to them but for Australians, we feel they represent Australia and all our nation stands for.” “I must admit I wear the green and gold ‘national colours’ a lot more when rep teams are playing but I do often find myself wearing them in day-to-day life to help distinguish who I am, especially living abroad,” Tim adds.
As with the national flag, which conjures up the historical and heraldic importance of the symbol, the Green and Gold pre-dates it, a by-product that many countries like Australia who has “transited” the colonial heritage. Seeking a new identity, a sign of independence, Green and Gold is the present; the flag in the past, although the national flag has great prominence amongst all Australians.
The Green and Gold bond may be one of the world’s oldest national colours, to Australians; the very essence of the colour is knowingly and sub-consciously hard-wired into the brain, and the formation of national identity is translated into these very colours.