Australia Day

Australia Day – Invasion Day

Most Australians celebrate Australia Day as the day Australia was founded. In contrast, Aboriginal people mourn their history and call it ‘Invasion Day’.

How 26th January 1788 became Australia Day

Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788 and raised the British flag for the first time in Sydney Cove.

In 1818, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the colony, the Governor of New South Wales gave all government employees a holiday (but only in that year).

Initially, it was only New South Wales that celebrated the day (for obvious reasons), and it was known as ‘First Landing Day’, ‘Anniversary Day’ or ‘Foundation Day’.

In 1838, 50 years after the First Fleet arrived, Foundation Day was declared Australia’s first public holiday in New South Wales.

By 1935, January 26 was known as Australia Day in all states except New South Wales where the name ‘Anniversary Day’ prevailed.

In 1946 the Commonwealth and state governments agreed to unify the celebrations on January 26 and call it ‘Australia Day’.

Before 1994 Australia Day was the closest Monday to January 26 to ensure a long weekend. (This tells you a lot about Australian priorities!) Since 1994, Australia Day has been a public holiday throughout the country.

Why do we celebrate Australia Day?

Since 1994 all states and territories celebrate Australia Day together on the actual day. On this day ceremonies welcome new citizens or honour people who did a great service.

On the fun side are BBQs, contests, parades, performances, fireworks and more.

A National Australia Day Council, founded in 1979, views Australia Day as “a day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation” and a “day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the generations to come”.