Australia Day is the official national holiday of Australia. It is celebrated every year on January 26th and is a day in which all Australians come together as a nation to celebrate not only what is great about their country but also what is great about being Australian. By celebrating this holiday, Australians get to celebrate the achievements of the past and look forward to the country’s bright future.
History of Australia Day
Australia Day can be traced back to 1787 when a fleet of eleven ships, known as the First Fleet, departed from England to Australia under the authority of the British Admiralty and the command of Captain Arthur Phillip.
This fleet was sent to establish a penal colony on the New South Wales coast—at Botany Bay. This area was chosen because it had been claimed by Lieutenant James Cook seven years earlier.
However, when the fleet arrived around January 18th, it became quite apparent that Botany Bay would not be a suitable location for a penal colony. Three days later, Captain Arthur Phillip traveled about 7.5 miles north to see if Port Jackson was a more suitable location.
They stayed until January 23rd and named it Sydney Cove—after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. During this time, they also met and established contact with the Aboriginal people who lived there. On January 24th, Captain Phillip gave orders to move the fleet to Sydney Cove.
However, due to a massive gale that was blowing, it was nearly impossible to move the fleet. The fleet wouldn’t be able to leave Botany Bay and anchor in Sydney Cove until January 26th, thereby making January 26th Australia Day.
However, while this date was the original date on which they finally landed at Sydney Cove, it wasn’t when the colony was officially established. That didn’t occur until February 7th, 1788, when the formal proclamation of the colony was read aloud. February was also when the vesting of the land to King George III occurred.
Australia Day Customs & Celebrations
Australia Day is treated in Australia much the same way that Independence Day is celebrated in the United States. People who have the day off work will barbecue, watch sporting events, or even attend outdoor concerts.
In Sydney, there are boat and ferry races, and in Adelaide, people celebrate with parades, fireworks, and a cricket match. Some Australians will open up a “slab,” which is a case of beer in popular Australian slang, or enjoy some Tim Tams—Australia’s favorite chocolate biscuit.