Australia Day marks the anniversary of the day Captain Arthur Phillip first raised the British flag at Sydney Cove and commemorates the arrival of Europeans to Australia on 26 January 1788.
Australia Day is a designated public holiday and a time for Australians of all backgrounds to celebrate national unity. It is also a time to wave the flag and take an active part in the community.
Australia Day usually begins with morning formalities; flags are hoisted, the national anthem is sung, cannons are fired, special community projects and individuals are recognised, ceremonies are held to welcome the country’s new citizens. There are free barbeque breakfasts and fun beach parties, corroborees and concerts, parades and pageants, sports, festivals and fireworks.
Australia Day history
In 1787, King George III sealed Australia’s fate by declaring it Britain’s new convict colony. Being sent to Botany Bay was a severe punishment. Sentences ranged from a minimum exile of seven years to life, with varying degrees of hard labour.
Under the command of Arthur Phillip, 11 ships of the First Fleet left Plymouth on 13 May 1787. It was an arduous journey with more than 1,400 people living in cramped conditions. Believing that Botany Bay was unsuitable for permanent settlement, Captain Phillip led the fleet north into Port Jackson, landing on 26 January 1788 after eight months at sea. Phillip named it Sydney Cove, after Lord Sydney the British Home Secretary.
More than 700 convicts (188 female), 700 merchant seamen, Royal Navy and Marine personnel and families, 209 fowls, 74 pigs, 35 ducks, 29 sheep, 29 geese, 19 goats, 18 turkeys, five cows, four stallions, three mares and two bulls disembarked from the First Fleet.
Australia’s national day is also an important annual opportunity to recognise the place of indigenous Australians in our nation’s history, and to promote understanding, respect and reconciliation. It is also a time for all Australians reflect on and celebrate everything that’s great about being Australian.
Australian of the Year Awards
The Australian of the Year Awards celebrates the achievements and contributions of eminent Australians, both young and old, in all fields from science to sport. There are four categories: Australian of the Year; Senior Australian of the Year (60 years and over); Young Australian of the Year (16 to 25 years); and Australia’s Local Hero. The awards are announced in Canberra, the nation’s capital, on Australia Day eve.