Every year, on the 26 January Australia Day is a national public holiday, where thousands of families and friends gathered to bring the country together. It reflects the nation's diversity of people in Australia's history.
Australia's major cities come together as a nation, and the City of Perth is one of those cities. I am fortunate to live close to the celebration zone at the Sir James Mitchell Park on the beautiful South Perth foreshore.
Families, youth and seniors from a wide range of demographics come from all over the city to the celebration zone to enjoy the free activities, rides, cultural group performances and entertainment for all ages. It is a smoke and alcohol-free with plenty of food to enjoy.
Along the Swan River, many private boats assemble for the City of Perth Skyworks display for a 30-minute light up at 8 pm.
A few ceremonial aspects, both a tradition and symbol of the holiday, are part of Australia Day:
- Citizenship Ceremonies - a traditional welcome to the country to those guests who later are inducted as new Australian citizens, followed by a Barbeque Breakfast. Over 16,000 people choose to become new citizens each year.
- 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 al 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.
- Australian of the Year Awards - Every year Australia celebrates the achievement and contribution of inspiring Australians by recognising leading citizens and role models.
The History of Australia Day
The 26 January marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British at Port Jackson, New South Wales in 1788; the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip, and the official declaration of British sovereignty on the land that would become Australia.
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 early colonial Sydney, the date was known as ‘First Landing Day’ or ‘Foundation Day’ But for 200 years, the other states commemorated their Australian-ness on Regatta Day (Tasmania), Proclamation Day (South Australia), Empire Day, and several other days.
“It was not until 1935 that all the states celebrated Australia Day in the way we know it today.” And in 1994, the 26 January was declared as public holiday.
Why is it a controversial day?
Many people believe there are two Australias; the land occupied for more than 50,000 years by Indigenous people before the arrival of the First Fleet, and the Australia that was colonised in 1788. Australia's Indigenous communities feel that the Australia they knew ended on 26 January 1788.
On 26 January 1938, Aboriginal people gathered in Sydney to mark a ‘Day of Mourning’. They were protesting against the brutal treatment, the oppressed communities and appropriation of land.
On Australia Day 1988, Australia’s bicentennial year, tens of thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians marched in protest.
In 2008, the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, formally apologised to Australia's Indigenous communities over historic government policies of forced child removal and Indigenous assimilation.
Will Australia Day continue as it is?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "Australia Day is 26 January. That was the day that Australia's course changed forever," he believes it should not change.
Mr Morrison has suggested a second national holiday, specifically for recognising the history of Indigenous Australians, but has not proposed a specific date for it.
The former prime minister, Tony Abbott, said the arrival of the First Fleet was “a good thing” for Aboriginal people.
A poll of over 1,000 Australians conducted by Research Now commissioned by the IPA found that:
- 70% of Australians believe Australia Day should be celebrated on 26 January, only 11% think the date should be moved.
- Only 23% of Australians think Councils should stop holding citizenship ceremonies on 26 January, 50% of Australians disagree with these Councils.
- 76% of Australians believe Australia has a history of which to be proud, only 9% oppose.
- 87% of Australians are proud to be an Australian, only 3% are not.
It is clear, by the polls, that the majority of Australians do not want the date of Australia Day changed and want to continue celebrating as a day to bring the country together.
I arrived in Australia in early 1988 with my husband and three small sons. In our first year here, on Australia Day, we joined all the Australians in their enthusiasm and contagious love they have for their country.
Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world today, together with the culture of Indigenous Australians have helped create a uniquely Australian identity and spirit.
I always felt privileged to have had the opportunity to live in this country which is considered one of the best countries to live. It offers eternal sunshine, friendly people, fresh food and beautiful nature everywhere.
Australia a Top 20 Country
Australia is a country and continent surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans. Its major cities – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide – are coastal. Its capital, Canberra, is inland.
The country is known for its Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, a vast interior desert wilderness called the Outback, and unique animal species like kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses. It has one of the lowest population densities in the world, and its population today is over 24 million.
Australia is a top 20 country and I am so grateful I am part of this great country. In 1992 I became an Australian citizen, and I have been enjoying the fantastic lifestyle this beautiful country has to offer.
I came from a completely different background of traditions and customs, but I embraced it and adjusted rapidly to their way of living.
Have you ever come to Australia? What did you like best about it? I'd love you to share your experiences.
With much appreciation