Celebrating Australia Day from 1788 – 2016

Its Australia Day 2016 - kick up your heels and have fun!Australia Day, the official National Day of Australia, is celebrated annually on 26 January each year. It marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales. Despite the date reflecting the arrival of the First Fleet, there are no large-scale re-enactments and contemporary celebrations are not especially historical in their theme.

For most people it is a Summer public holiday, a day to dig out the Strine, slap on a fake tattoo of the Aussie flag, don the thongs, sing Aussie songs, cool down or get sunburnt at the beach, throw prawns on the barbie, and find a local source of fireworks for the evening.

Various music festivals are held on Australia Day, such as the Big Day Out, the Triple J Hottest 100, and the Australia Day Live Concert which is televised nationally.

In Sydney, the beautiful harbour is the focus where boat races are held, such as the ferry race and the tall ships race.

In Adelaide they celebrate ‘Australia Day in the City’, a parade, concert and fireworks display held in Elder park, and with the traditional International Cricket match played at the Adelaide Oval.

With audiences estimated at 400,000, the Perth Skyworks is their largest Australia Day event.

Featuring the People’s March and the Voyages Concert, Melbourne’s events focus strongly on the celebration of multiculturalism.

A Day of Celebration & Tolerance for Australians

We live in Australia, as indigenous people, settlers, as migrants, as people born to those who settled, migrated or were brought here as convicts, or landed here as refugees, all the history aside – we are Australians. The Australian multi-cultural policy may not have a 100% success rate but look at Europe!

Australia Day is a day of gratitude to celebrate being able to live here in the Lucky Country. Not a day to bag out politicians or incite hatred and violence. It’s a day of love, to be tolerant of racial differences and show gratitude for what our Country gives us. We love this sunburnt Country and all its crazy Aussies from all the different nations.

My Country: Recited by the Poet Dorothea Mackellar

The lyrics to ‘I am Australian’ were written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of ‘The Seekers’ and Dobe Newton of ‘The Bushwackers’ and set to music composed by Bruce Woodley. The song says everything about the people of Australia, who is Australian, however they may choose to celebrate or remember Australia Day.

The Seekers – I am Australian(1993)

A very moving point of view comes via a refugee from South Sudan,  grateful to have a home now in Australia.
Listen to Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day speech

A  Day of Remembrance for Indiginous Australians

Reflecting a shift in Australians’ understanding of the place of Indigenous Australians in their national identity, Newspoll research in November 2009 reported that ninety percent of Australians polled believed “it was important to recognise Australia’s indigenous people and culture” as part of Australia Day celebrations. A similar proportion (89%) agreed that “it is important to recognise the cultural diversity of the nation”.

Although Australia Day is a day of celebration for many people, it is a day of mourning and remembrance for most indiginous Australians. This is reflected in the Google Doodle for Australia Day in 2016. It has had contoversial reactions however from many people especially fueled by this article. Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Australia Day Honours

In present-day Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community. The holiday is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year Awards on Australia Day Eve, announcement of the Australia Day Honours list and addresses from the Governor-General and Prime Minister.

Citizenship ceremonies are also held, and Australia Day is now the largest occasion for celebrations of Australian citizenship. On 26 January 2011, more than 300 citizenship ceremonies took place and 13,000 people from 143 countries took Australian citizenship. Research conducted in 2007 reported that 78.6% of respondents thought that citizenship ceremonies were an important feature of the day.

The Order of Australia awards are also a feature of the day. The Australia Day Achievement Medallion is awarded to citizens by local governments based on excellence in both government and non-government organisations.

On the eve of Australia Day each year, the Prime Minister announces the winner of the Australian of the Year award, presented to an Australian citizen who has shown a “significant contribution to the Australian community and nation” and is an “inspirational role model for the Australian community”.

Australian of the Year for 2016

Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison AO was named Australian of the Year for 2016. He served as Chief of Army from June 2011 until his retirement in May 2015. In June 2013, Morrison ordered an investigation into several emails sent from Army accounts over a three-year period that were highly demeaning to women. In June 2014 Morrison formed part of the Australian delegation to the Global Summit To End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London, to which he delivered a speech arguing that armies that separate themselves from civil society, value men over women and celebrate violence “do nothing to distinguish the soldier from the brute”.

A Short History of Australia Day

Although not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808. Foundation Day, as it was known in 1818 was the 30th anniversary of the founding of the colony, and Governor Lachlan Macquarie acknowledged the day with the first official celebration. In 1837 the first running of what would become the Australia Day regatta was held on Sydney Harbour, a tradition that is still continued today. The following year, 1838, was the 50th anniversary of the founding of the colony, and as part of the celebrations Australia’s first public holiday was declared.

In 1888, the centenary, all colonial capitals except Adelaide celebrated ‘Anniversary Day’on this day. In 1910, South Australia adopted the name Australia Day but it was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories called this date “Australia Day”. The 150th anniversary in 1938 was widely celebrated. The Commonwealth and state governments agreed to unify the celebrations on 26 January as ‘Australia Day’ in 1946, although the public holiday was instead taken on the Monday closest to the actual anniversary. It was 1994 that the 26th January was consistently marked as a public holiday on that day by all states and territories.

BiCentennial Celebration of Australia Day 1988

Tall Ships in Sydney Harbour BiCentennial Australia Day 1988

In 1988, the celebration of 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet was organised. Over 2.5 million people attended the event in Sydney. Events included street parties, concerts – including performances in front of the Sydney Opera House and at many other public venues. Prince Charles and Diana were here. There were art and literary competitions, historic re-enactments, and the opening of the Powerhouse Museum at its new location. A re-enactment of the arrival of the First Fleet took place in Sydney Harbour, and the harbour was crowded with small boats come to get a look at the Tall ships that had sailed from Portsmouth a year earlier.

Maybe this Australia day isn’t going to be that grand, but there’s plenty to see and do. Get outside and celebrate Australia Day in a true Aussie way according to your own family traditions and have a ripper of a day!


Wikipedia for Australian History

Search the 2016 Honours List  (by Postcode)

Search National Events 2016 in Australia by State and Postcode (major events)

Aussie Day 2016 on Twitter

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