Most, if not all, nations have a day to honor some special date in the nation’s history. In the United States, for example, 4 July is Independence Day, a national holiday that commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the end of British rule over the Colonies.
In Australia, it’s Australia Day, a national holiday that commemorates the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and the first — official — colonists on 26 January 1788. The holiday has had other monikers in the past — Anniversary Day, Foundation Day and ANA Day – and began as a day to commemorate the forming of the colony of New South Wales. The first official celebration took place in 1818, though the first recorded celebration occurred in 1808.
Australia Day has some controversy surrounding it because of the effect colonisation had on the nation’s indigenous people, leading them to refer to it as “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day.” Nonetheless, Australia Day has evolved over the years into an all-inclusive national holiday marked by special events like the GIO Oz Day 10K wheelchair race, the 2012 Yabun Concert, the biggest one and the NRMA Motorfest, as well as fun activities and, of course, fireworks. It’s also become a day to recognize good citizenship with the Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year awards. Every year, an Australia Day address is given. Associate professor Charles Teo gave this year’s address on 23 January.
The Australia Day website has a lot of decorations like posters, screen savers and desktop wallpapers in addition to other celebratory extras like online quizzes and activity sheets for children.
Australia Day has changed a lot since 1808. It has gone from a holiday that celebrated a stodgy, British lifestyle and flew in the face of indigenous people to one that welcomes and includes all Australian citizens and their different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.