Eight Hours Day

Sometimes known as Labour Day in Tasmania, Australia, and elsewhere, May Day, Eight Hours Day is a day to mark the granting of an eight-hour workday to Australians. We may take our eight-hour working day for granted, but in Australia, they celebrate it, and rightly so! It is a holiday in six states and two territories, so it has quite a bit of reach, and is a public holiday, meaning schools and many businesses close for the day.

When Is Eight Hours Day?

It varies depending on which part of Australia you are in. In Western Australia, it is observed on the first Monday of March, and in Victoria and Tasmania, it is observed on the second Monday. In the Northern Territory, Australians celebrate on the first Monday in May. In Queensland, it is celebrated on the first Monday of October, so it is certainly a holiday that differs from your typical day off.

What Is The History of Eight Hours Day?

Going back over a century, the roots trace back to a time when working conditions were not what they are today. This was a time when long days were common, and unfair pay and conditions were an issue. It was also the number of days that was an issue, with many people working six days a week. We’re talking about the 1800s here, and by the middle of the century, there was a focus on improving working conditions. In 1856, it was the stonemasons of the University of Melbourne who marched to Parliament House, protesting for an eight-hour working day.

It took some time, but eventually, an agreement was reached with employers to make a working week a 48-hour week and an eight-hour day. This slowly spread among the states, starting with New South Wales, Queensland, then South Australia by 1873.

Later, the Victorian government announced a paid public holiday, and a May Day meeting was held in Melbourne in 1890; this was where the first reference to May Day could be found in a local paper.

How To Observe Eight Hours Day?

Most people treat it like a long weekend, so the celebrations are often relaxing and lengthy. This can involve picnics, BBQs, watching sports, and spending time with family. People often head to the coast or go camping, your typical long weekend activities.

In some states, the day is observed with marches, while others are more laid back in their approach, with politicians and others often at the forefront. Also, a lot of unions have something to say about the day. Be wary that many places are shut if you are visiting Australia around this time, and public transport is often limited if it is running at all.

A good way to observe Eight Hours Day in Australia is by doing a little research, studying the history, and finding out why it is such an important day to the locals. We take our short working weeks for granted, even moan about them from time to time, but when compared to how things used to be, most of us are doing pretty well.

Where is it celebrated?
Australia (Common state holiday) - Tasmania
When is it?
This year (2024)
March 11 Monday
Next year (2025)
March 10 Monday
Last year (2023)
March 13 Monday