The Land Down Under has many special days that Australians celebrate throughout the year. Australia Day marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the British ships that arrived at Port Jackson in the state of New South Wales.
It also marks the raising of the United Kingdom flag at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
This day is an official National Day, held on January 26, and is a special day for all Australians.
A time to reflect!
On this day celebrations are held throughout the nation by the government, communities, and by families.
All Australians take time to reflect on the country’s history on Australia Day.
Even though this is a Public Holiday there are official community awards conducted on this day.
There are also citizenship ceremonies that welcome new members to the Australian community.
These new members come from all over the world to Australia to start a new life and become Aussie citizens.
Australia Day – 26th January
Also known as Invasion Day, Survival Day, and Aboriginal Day of Mourning.
Please watch this!
Before you continue reading this post why not check out this short music video with many pictures showcasing the history of this ancient land.
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When Did Australia Day Start?
As I have mentioned at the start of this post January 26th, 1788 marks significant events in the history of Australia.
Together with the landing of the First Fleet and raising of the British flag it also marks the proclamation of British sovereignty on the eastern seaboard of Australia.
Leaving Great Britain
This First Fleet of 11 British ships left Britain eight months earlier on May 13th, 1787. The fleet was under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip.
The reason for this mass transport of people was to relocate convicts.
The British government wanted to establish a penal colony in Botany Bay in New South Wales.
The continent of Australia was explored by the British back in 1770 by James Cook.
This settlement was seen as suitable since the loss of the Thirteen Colonies in North America. The British could not send its convicts to this New World and so a substitute was needed.
The arrival of The First Fleet
The fleet arrived between the 18th and 20th of January, however, Botany Bay was deemed unsuitable for the settlement. Captain Phillip and a few officers then traveled to Port Jackson, 12kms to the north.
Their landing spot was later to be named Sydney Cove.
Arriving at Sydney Cove
Phillip and his company stayed at Sydney Cove until January 23rd. During this short stay, they made contact with the local aboriginal people. They then returned to Botany Bay that same evening.
The following day the fleet was to make its move to the new location at Sydney Cove.
However, due to a large gale, this relocation was delayed until January 25th.
But the fleet still had difficulty on this day and did not reach the new site of the settlement until January 26th. Botany Bay was thus possessed in the name of King George III on the 26th of the month.
The formal establishment did not occur on January 26th.
This did not occur until February 7th, 1788 when a formal proclamation was readout.
The land of New Holland
At the time of the arrival of the First Fleet Australia was then known as New Holland. This name was applied in 1644 to this land by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman.
When the British arrived in 1788 the area they settled at was named New South Wales.
Renaming the country
As a result, the name New Holland was applied to the west of this new territory.
The small island below mainland Australia would later be called Tasmania, after the Dutch seafarer Tasman. Before 1856 this island was originally named Van Diemen’s Land.
This special day in Australian history has been known by different names over the last two centuries. This day and its significance have evolved during this time.
Before being known as Australia Day it has been known as Anniversary Day, First Landing, Foundation Day, and Australian Natives’ Association Day.
The first official celebration
Records do show that there were celebrations on January 26th, 1808. The first official celebration was held in New South Wales ten years later in 1818.
Forming a federation
New Year’s Day 1901 also marks a special day in Australian history. On this day the separate British colonies formed a Federation. And so this marked the birth of modern Australia.
As a result of this unification, a national day was called to celebrate this unity.
However, it would not be until 1935 that Australia Day was officially recognized by all the states and territories. Up until 1994 this date was not even consistently marked as a public holiday.
What if Australia Day falls on the weekend?
If this happens then the following Monday becomes a public holiday.
What Happens On Australia Day?
The day before Australia Day is also special for several Australians. An award known as the Australian of the Year is presented on this day.
For many Australians, their achievements throughout the past year are recognized by this event.
Honoring notable Australians
There is also a list of notable Australians honored on this day, known as the Australian Day Honors list. They are given the Order of Australia, (AO).
The Queen confers upon this list of Australian honors. Similar to the Australian of the Year award they are also recognized for their achievements.
Addresses are made by the Queen’s representative the Governor-General and the Prime Minister as well. Community festivals, concerts, and citizenship ceremonies are also held on this day.
Australia Day has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia!
The controversy of Australia Day
As well as the above-mentioned events some Indigenous Australian events are also included. Since at least 1938 Australia Day has marked this day as the invasion of the British onto the Aboriginal native land.
There is also protesting that this day is celebrated as a national holiday.
Why the controversy?
This day marks the loss of the Aborigine’s sovereign rights to the land.
It also marks the loss of family and the right to practice their culture. To them, it only marks the arrival of the British and the destruction of their lives.
It is similar to the struggles of the Native American people in North America.
Many people protest Thanksgiving Day as a day that European settlers destroyed their way of life.
These groups of protestors refer to January 26 as Invasion Day or Survival Day.
These protestors want this date to be changed to January 1st, which is the anniversary of the Federation of Australia in 1901.
A day of national mourning!
Celebrations in 1938 saw the accompaniment of the Aboriginal Day of Mourning. Then in 1988 in Sydney, a large gathering of aboriginal people led an Invasion Day commemoration.
Still to this day some people refer to Australia Day as Invasion Day.
This day was referred to as Survival Day as early as 1992. It is thus a day that celebrates the survival of the Indigenous culture and heritage.
There have been calls to change the date of a national holiday due to this controversy.
Several different dates include:
- January 1st – Federation of Australia
- March 3rd – Australia Acts commencement
- April 25th – ANZAC Day
- May 9th – Opening of the first Federal Parliament
- May 27th – Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum
- July 9th – Constitution Day
- December 3rd – Eureka Stockade
My Final Thoughts
Although this day is marked by controversy I do believe that a day should be celebrated.
There should be a day that all Australians can share with pride and honor.
This day should allow them to be proud of their heritage, and as well recognize the achievements of both individuals and groups.
Should the day be changed?
As to whether this date should be moved it is a muted point for me and many others. I am not saying that this day should be changed or not, but it is certainly open for debate.
What do you think?
I would love to hear your comments on this question. So, please comment below and tell me what you think.
After all, it is a day of sorrow for the Aboriginal people and I acknowledge that. We should all be sympathetic to what this day means for other Australians.
Not to sound bitter or harsh but this day has been set aside for nearly 70 years now.
And so for many, it is difficult for them to want change.
Until whether the date is changed or not, we should respect this date as a day to honor all Australians and recognized their achievements.
For more discussion on what you can do on Australia Day please head on over to the Australia Day website.
There you will find information about this special day, what events are planned to mark the occasion and how you can plan your event.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed reading this article regarding what is Australia Day all about. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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12 thoughts on “What Is Australia Day All About?”
As an Aussie, I love Australia Day! Another fun fact about Australia day is that Triple J (A national radio station) plays the hottest 100 songs from the previous year as voted by the country. It’s played throughout the day as a celebration of music and national pride. Aussie, aussie, aussie!
That’s a great idea to celebrate this special day for Australians. There is just so many ways that people can celebrate Australia Day. And Australians do sure know how to party.
Hi Owain, another very thorough article! I have quite a few Aussie mates and they really know how to celebrate Straya Day, as they call it! Interesting about the Aborigines being displaced, I wasn’t aware this was part of Australia Day. We Brits have a lot to answer for I guess. Nice touch by the Australian Government to celebrate by welcoming new citizens etc. I haven’t been to Australia yet and I should really go since I am very close here in Malaysia. Maybe one day. Does this mean the Aborigines can’t celebrate their culture in public or private?
You should go to Australia someday for a visit. There is just so much to see how and do.
Unfortunately Australia Day is surrounded around controversy similar to Thanksgiving Day. For the Aborigines it is a day that marks the arrival of the British and destroying their way of life. Aborigines do though celebrate their heritage and culture publicly, and they wish for this special day to be moved to a more sensitive date where all Australians can enjoy and celebrate it.
I was not aware of the history of Australia! You see I am Greek and we learn specific chapters of global history such us the French Revolution and the World Wars that has to do with our country! Thanks for the History Lesson! I learned something interesting today just by reading your post!
Glad that you liked Rebecca. It is fun to learn new things. I myself like to be enlightened by things like this.
That’s a lot of information and is very well written. I like how you laid it all out and made it simple to understand. Sometimes you get a mismatch of information and it is difficult to know what is right and what is not.
You’re quite welcome Russ. Whenever I put posts like this on this site I like to fully research it first. By doing so I know I have put up correct information and that I have included everything about the subject in the post.
Hello Owain, thank you for this information. Over the years I had picked up, ‘bits and pieces’ of Australian history, but it was not a subject I have studied. I am now more enlightened about the land ‘down under’.
I liked the way you included the natives, the Aborigines and their perspective on things. A good post.
I am glad that you felt that the article was informative. That was my goal. It’s not until we read about these occasions that we fully understand and appreciate these days. I hope I have done that on this occasion.
It’s important to know history and understand its meaning. Thankfully we live now in a world were we can discuss and talk to each other. A luxury that was not given to every race 100 years ago. Your article was very informative for me ( I am not Australian and did not know about Australia Day at all). I admire what you are doing and wish you all the best.
It always fascinates me finding out the history and origins of events such as this. Public holidays come along and we celebrate them. But sometimes we do not know the true history or meaning of these special dates. That’s why I lie to share days like this on this site.