Australia Day

When is the Australia Day Celebrated? Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 each year. Over 200 years ago, the First Fleet of the British arrived at the Sydney Cove and on this date Australia was set up as a settlement by the European colonists.

Australia Day is celebrated as the national holiday of the country. Known at different times as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, and ANA Day, the occasion has been celebrated for over two centuries now. Australia Day marks the biggest civic event in the country.

What is the historic significance of January 26?
A British fleet, comprising 11 ships, first reached Botany Bay in South Wales between January 18 and January 20. The Europeans intended to create a penal colony where they would send convicts from Britain. On reaching Botany Bay, Captain Arthur Phillip, the commander of the fleet, realized that Botany Bay was totally inhabitable. On January 21, he led a team of officers to Port Jackson, which was 7 miles to the north, in search of a better place for settlement. He named the landing site Sydney Cove, after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney and the Home Secretary. Philips returned to Botany Bay on the evening of January 23 and ordered his fleet to move to Sydney Bay. On January 24 a gale storm prevented the troops from leaving Botany Bay. With the gale still strong, the fleet tried to leave on Botany Bay on January 25. Only one ship, HMS Supply, with Arthur Phillip, Philip Gidley King, the marines, and some convicts onboard, was able to leave Botany Bay. They reached Sydney Cove in the afternoon. The following day, January 26, Philip along with his marines went ashore and claimed the land in the name of King George III.

The other ships were still having trouble leaving Botany Bay as the gale grew in intensity. The ships Charlotte and Friendship collided while Lady Penrhyn almost ran aground. The ships were finally able to leave Botany Bay and reached Sydney Cove on January 26, the last arriving at about 3 pm. January 26 is thus considered the day Australia became a European settlement.

When was Australia Day first celebrated?
Evidences of celebrations on January 26 date back to 1808.  In 1818, Governor Lachlan Macquarie officially celebrated January 26 as Foundation Day. He announced a public holiday for all government workers and also gave them an extra allowance in the form of “one pound of fresh meat”. Since it was the 30th anniversary of the first landing, he ordered a 30-gun salute at Dawes Point, one for each year since the colony was first established. This became a tradition with the following Governors.

How has Australia Day been celebrated over the years?
50th Anniversary Celebrations: On the 50th Australia Day, in 1838, a regatta was held at the Sydney harbor. At noon, a 50-gun salute was given at Dawes Point. The Royal Standard was raised and there were rocket and firework shows in the evening.

Centenary Celebrations (100 years): In 1888, all the colonies, except Adelaide, celebrated “Anniversary Day” together. Before this, the colonies had their own Anniversary Day events to commemorate their founding. Sesquicentenary Celebrations (150 years): The 150th anniversary of British settlement in Australia was a grand celebration. Australians had previously enjoyed a long weekend but the day itself had not been a holiday. On this occasion, New South Wales became the first state to break with this tradition and declared January 26 a holiday. In 1946, the commonwealth and state governments agreed to celebrate January 26 as Australia Day – a national, public holiday.

Bicentennial Year Celebrations (200 years): 1988 marked the 200th anniversary of British settlement in Australia. Festivities took place throughout the country with more than 2.5 million people taking part in the events in Sydney. The re-enactment of the original landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove was performed at Sydney Harbor. Ships had sailed from Portsmouth in Britain to take part in this enactment.

What Is Special About Australia Day 2013?
For 2013, the entire nation has a number of gala events lined up for Australia Day celebrations. The Prime Minister will head the Australian Citizenship Ceremony and welcome Canberra's newest Australian citizens. The Rock Australia Day Festival and the Australia CARnival are the highlights of Sydney CBD. Those at the harbor will witness the annual 21 gun salute and the 177th annual Regatta in keeping with tradition. Other states will be hosting many colorful and spectacular events.

Last Updated on: December 5th, 2017