The Ultimate Travellers Guide To Australia Day

The Ultimate Travellers Guide To Australia Day

The Christmas decorations have been put away for another year and the New Year’s hangover is fading to a distant memory as the temperature continues to increase. Summer down under is in full swing.

Suddenly you notice that there seems to be an unusual amount of Australian branded tat in the shops.

ou know flags, flip flops, t-shirts, shorts and hats etc. all with the Australian flag plastered all over them. It can mean only one thing, Australia day is approaching, and fast.

Often just an excuse to light up the BBQ and have few cold ones there’s actually more to Australia day than partying.

The History

The 26th January marks the day that Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the first fleet of 11 convict ships and the first Governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove and raised the Union Jack in 1788.

As early as 1804, early settlers began referring to January 26th as First Landing day or Foundation day which was accompanied by celebratory drinks and later anniversary dinners.

On the 30th anniversary of the landing, the day was officially recognised as a public holiday in 1838.

However, it wasn’t until 1888 when the New South Wales celebration became one for the whole of Australia.

In 1930 the Australian Natives’ Association in Victoria campaigned to have 26th January celebrated on a Monday throughout Australia as Australia day, making it a long weekend. The Victorian government agreed in 1931 and all other states followed suit by 1935.

A day of Celebration

Over the years the meaning behind Australia has changed. From a celebration for emancipated convicts it has evolved into a celebration of everything Australian.

It is a day to celebrate the contribution everyone makes to the country. A day to celebrate, diversity, culture, the land, lifestyle and freedoms.

It is a hugely popular day with ¾ of Australians believing it has a bigger meaning than just an extra day off.

Over half of all Australians participate in Australia day in way. From attending organised events to getting together with family and friends.

Plus, in something akin to the UK’s New year’s honours over 16,000 new Australians get to become become citizens on Australia day. Which I think is pretty cool.

A Day of Mourning

For some January 26th is not or ever will be a day for celebration.

In aboriginal cultures Australia day is a day for mourning. For them January 26th marks the day that the white man settled, and all their troubles began.

For them Australia day is known as survival day.

In 1938, aboriginal people gathered in Sydney to mark a “day of mourning”. They were reportedly protesting against the heartless treatment of their people by the “white men” during the past 150 years.

A larger protest in 1988, Australia’s bicentennial year, was held attended by tens of thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, highlighting the other side of the coin to the world.

Australia day has since tried to become a more all-encompassing affair. However, to some this date will always be a day of sorrow and not of celebration.

Change the Date?

In recent years there has been a grass roots movement calling to change the date of Australia day.

While there seems to be no plans for this to happen it is interesting that a poll by the Australia institute found that 56% of respondents really didn’t mind which day Australia day was on.

Just as long as there was an Australia day. 49% of respondent said they didn’t think it shouldn’t be on a day that offends indigenous people.

What can I do on Australia day?

If you’re lucky enough to not be working and haven’t been invited to a friend or family get together then you can head on out to state/local government organised event.

There is bound to be one close to wherever in Australia you are. Head to the Australia day website to find an event right up your street (maybe literally) but here’s few to get you started.


Noosa Australia day Festival

Held at Lions park on 26th Jan, this all-day festival is free to attend. From 7am-5pm you can enjoy music, entertainment and plenty of food.

The Rotary (who are hosting the event) are even putting on a ‘big Breakfast’ to help you wake up.

Great Australian Bites -Bundaberg

If food’s your thing then heads to Bucca Retreat, Kleidons road Bundaberg.

From 9.30am you can get your hands on an array of delicious dishes from local restaurants. Plus, home-grown performers will take to the stage to keep you entertained for the day.

New South Wales

Reddall Reserve

From 7am you can enjoy breakfast by the lake for just $4 followed by a morning of music, stalls and lots of free fun activities.


Australia day Coogee Beach festival

This free annual event is hosted by Christina Morrissey this year.

Including an address from the mayor, a watermelon eating contest and sandcastle building contest and much more there is something for everyone.

Plus, it’s at the beach so, you know, you can always just go for a swim or work on your tan.


Australia day Parade, Melbourne

Starting at 11.45am following the official flag raising ceremony expect a vibrant, diverse display of all things Melbourne. Without 1000 participant from over 80 community and cultural groups there’s sure to be a party atmosphere!

Melbourne Docklands Fireworks

From 6pm-9.30pm the Harbour Esplanade host the Docklands festivities. From roaming street artists, markets and tasty eats it’s the perfect way to end the day of celebration. Don’t forget to find the perfect spot to watch the fireworks which begin at 9pm.

Last year over 25,000 people visited the Docklands celebration.

South Australia

Australia day in the City – Adelaide

From 6pm watch the largest Australia day parade in the country featuring more than 4000 people. The parade includes community groups, vintage cars, horses, marching bands and a giant echidna. Following the parade there is a huge free concert starting just after 7pm and the day concludes with fireworks!

Capital Territory

Regatta Point and Patrick White Lawns -Canberra

Chill at Regatta Point with live entertainment from 4pm or BYO picnic to Patrick White lawns.

Get your foodie on at the marketplace before being mesmerised by the fireworks over lake Burley from 9pm.


Henley-on-Mersey Australia day Festival

The highlight of the day is the ferret race but there is so much more going on too!

From the land boat race, the Iron Trial Strongman competition, archery, wood chopping competition and of course the Great Aussie Cherry Spit.

Whether you want to get involved or just watch from the side-lines just $5 will get you a whole heap of fun!

Northern Territory

Australia day Ute Run – Hidden valley

This unusual street parade sees lots (and I mean lots) of ‘Aussified’ Utes parade down the streets in a weird but wonderful show of patriotism.

Flying Australian flags and decorated up to the nines, the Utes convoy from Hidden Valley Raceway to Noonamah Tavern. Here everyone celebrates with a drink or two along with family friendly games and activities including the Muffler Toss and Thong Throwing competitions

Apparently, it’s a well-loved tradition up north and happens no matter the weather. Torrential downpour or not the Ute run will be a go.

Want to get in involved? Sign your Ute up for just $20.

Plus, all funds raised on the day are donated to charity.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a friend or two and head to your nearest Australia Day celebration.

How are you going to spend Australia day? After all you don’t have to be Australian to appreciate and to celebrate everything about this weird and wonderful country.

Until next time

Keep Adventuring

Sydney opera house Australia day
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