Australia Day is Australia’s official national day which is observed annually on the 26th of January. It remembers the arrival of “the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales which had taken place in 1778.
After the arrival of the ships, the then Governor Arthur Phillip had raised the flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove.” Historically, this day is called by various names such as “Anniversary Day”, “Foundation Day” and “ANA Day”. On this day all the people of the nation come together to celebrate the essence of being an Australian.
They look back on their achievements and failures and feel proud to be a part of Australia. On this day, the people also re-commit to their nation to make it an even better place to live in for the future generations. The significance of this day has changed over time along with the ways of celebration.
- The 26th of January, 1778 marks the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip at Port Jackson, New South Wales.
- This landing is better known as First Fleet and comprised of eleven ships.
- On this day, the colony of New South Wales had been founded and the Europeans first entered into the Australian land.
- On the 30th anniversary of this date i.e. in 1818, the Governor of New South Wales granted all the government employees a day off.
- This day was further made special by a 30-gun salute and a ball.
- The years following this event, the employees of banks and other organizations also started getting a holiday on this day.
- In the prior years, only New South Wales used to celebrate this day known as the “First Landing Day” but after 50 years since the fleet arrived, this day was declared to be a public holiday for New South Wales in 1838.
- By 1935, this day was called Australia Day in all the states with New South Wales being the only exception where it was still known as Anniversary Day.
- Since 1994, this day was declared a national holiday for the whole of Australia and from 1946 the name became Australia Day for all the states and territories including New South Wales.
- As this day marks colonization, it is has also been recognized by the Aboriginal and Indigenous Australians to be a day of invasion of their land by the Europeans and hence prefer to call this day by the names “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day”.
Symbols Of This Day
The symbols usually used on Australia Day are same as those associated with Australia in general like –
- the Australian National Flag representing the Union Jack,
- the Commonwealth Star and the five stars of the Southern Cross, and as well as
- the Golden wattle that’s the national floral emblem.
Other popular symbols include –
- the opal which is the national gemstone of Australia and
- the national colors of green and gold.
These symbols are generally seen all around in parades and other events on this day.
- This day is an official public holiday observed in all the states and territories of the nation.
- On this day, all the schools, offices, banks and post offices are closed.
- Majority of the public transports do not operate on this day and the very few that do, does so in a reduced manner.
- The stores maybe kept open but exercise restricted opening hours.
- Congestion on the roads and lanes are common especially in the vicinity of the areas where the Australian Day events are held.
- In case this holiday falls on a weekend then the holiday automatically gets extended to Monday.
- Different places in Australia celebrate this day differently. Australian citizenship ceremonies are held on this day.
- Citizenship ceremonies are aimed to welcome immigrants who have acquired the citizenship of Australia.
- The national anthem, Advance Australia Fair is heard commonly on this day along with the unofficial anthem, Waltzing Matilda.
- Some of the main events held on this day across Australia are community barbeques, festivals, outdoor concerts, carnivals, sports competitions and firework displays.
- These events are organized by the National Australia Day Council which is the official council of this festival in every state and territory.
- Along with these, a variety of music festivals are also held on Australia Day such as the Triple J Hottest 100, the Big Day Out and the Australia Day Live Concert.
- On the eve of this holiday, the Prime Minister presents the Australian of the Year Award to an Australian citizen who has showcased an immense contribution to the Australian nation as a whole.
- Both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister address the nation on this day and the Order of Australia Awards is also hosted.
- Another special feature of this holiday is the Australian Day Achievement Medallion which is presented to certain citizens by the local government on the basis of their performance in both government and non-government organizations.
Australia Day Celebrations In Some Major Places
In Sydney, the harbor is a main venue of this day where boat races such as ferry races and tall ship races are held. In 2013, both the Aboriginal Flag and the Australian Flag were raised on the Sydney Harbor Bridge on the occasion of Australia Day for the first time.
In Adelaide, the notable events are ‘Australia Day in the City’ which includes a parade, a concert and a fireworks display in Elder Park along with the well-known traditional International match of cricket played at the Adelaide Oval.
Events in Melbourne consist of programs like the People’s March and the Voyages Concert which concentrates on the celebration of multiculturalism. The Perth Skyworks hosted in Melbourne is the largest event to take place on Australia Day every year.