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Australia Day 2021
The top Australia day events, festivals and firework displays.
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Want to find out what's happening on Australia Day in your city? Set your sights on our Australia Day guides helping you plan out your day on 26 January.
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When is Australia Day?
Australia Day falls on 26 January every year and is a public holiday across all Australian states and territories.
Will Australia Day events and fireworks be going ahead in 2021?
Many Australia Day events are cancelled in 2021 in response to COVID-19. If you're not sure what's happening in your area, look at our city-based guides above or check your local government website for the latest updates on Australia Day fireworks and events that will be going ahead.
About Australia Day
On this national day, Aussies come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's a time to collectively reflect on what Australia has achieved and what we can be proud of as a nation and re-commit to making Australia an even greater country for future generations. It marks the anniversary of the First Fleet's arrival in 1788 and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove.
Though this date marks the anniversary of a specific event, modern-day Australia Day celebrations reflect the contemporary Australia that includes the diverse communities, cultures, society and landscape.
The history of Australia Day
The date of 26 January originates from the early nineteenth century, with official documents referring to the First Landing Day or Foundation Day. This was the day in 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet and first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. Some of the immigrants who prospered in Sydney, particularly sons of convicts, began marking the colony's beginnings with an anniversary dinner to celebrate their love of the land they lived in.
The Jubilee 1838
Although there was no official celebration of the colony's anniversary, the colony's immigrants continued to celebrate at sundown on 25 January, all the way into the night. This continued into 1838, marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the colony and as part of the celebrations, Australia declared its first public holiday.
The Centenary 1888
By this time, Victoria had separated from New South Wales in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. Van Diemen's Land had a new name – Tasmania – named after the first European explorer to sight the island. Attitudes from the different sister colonies towards celebrating 26 January were mixed at this time, as 25 January was still very much a New South Wales affair.
In 1910, South Australia adopted Australia Day and Victoria adopted it in 1931. By 1935, all states of Australia were celebrating 26 January. In New South Wales it was still called Anniversary Day.
The Sesquicentenary 1938
The 150th anniversary of British settlement in Australia was celebrated widely. After almost 100 years, they had found an agreement on the name, timing and nature of the celebrations. In 1946, New South Wales had agreed to adopt the name "Australia Day".
The Bicentenary 1988
In 1988, 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet, the celebrations of Australia Day were taking place all over Australia. Over 2.5 million people attended the event in Sydney including parties and performances at the Sydney Opera House.
Outdoor concerts, barbecues, festivals and fireworks are some of the many events that occur on Australia Day. The National Australia Day Council organises a number of these events and citizenship ceremonies are also commonly held. On the day before Australia Day each year, the Prime Minister announces the winner of the Australian of the Year award. The award is given to a citizen who has contributed and inspired the Australian community and the nation. Various local festivals take place and an international cricket match is usually held.
Criticism of Australia Day
For some communities in Australia, such as Indigenous Australians, Australia Day has symbolised the adverse effects of British settlement on their people. In 1938, an Aboriginal Day of Mourning was held at the same time as celebrations.
A large group of Aboriginal people in Sydney led an Invasion Day commemorating the loss of Indigenous culture in 1988. The day has been widely used to emphasise the alternative attitudes towards Australia Day and although some Indigenous Australians celebrate Australia Day, Invasion protests occur almost every year.
Australia Day ceremonies
There are a few ceremonial aspects to Australia Day which are both a tradition and symbol of the holiday.
- Citizenship ceremonies. These have both personal and legal dimensions and grant new citizens rights and responsibilities, including the right to vote, stand for public office and travel on an Australian passport.
- Affirmation ceremonies. These ceremonies allow Australian-born citizen to declare their loyalty to Australia and its people. It's usually held before a function or before the Citizenship Ceremony.
- Flying the Australian flag. People all over the country will fly the Australian national flag, as well as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
- Australian National Anthem. Proclaimed in 1984, the Australian National Anthem identifies Australia and is sung during all ceremonies.
- Australia Day Ambassador Program. This is an initiative that sees high achieving and proud Aussies attend local celebrations in communities across the nation. Ambassadors volunteer their time to inspire communities across Australia.
- Reconciliation. Australia Day is also the time to recognise the unique status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with an appropriate mark of respect on the national day.
- Australian of the Year Awards. Every year Australia celebrates the achievements and contributions of inspiring Australians by recognising leading citizens and role models.
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