Skip to content

Australia Day: a controversial public holiday

On January 26, Australians get together with family or friends on Australia Day. This public holiday, celebrated throughout the country, is the subject of claims from the Aboriginal community. Indeed, it is also the symbol of colonization for a whole part of the population. In recent years, the debate has evolved and Australia Day seems more and more controversial. We will explain everything to you.

The origin of Australia Day

Australia Day is a national holiday. Like many national holidays around the world, it honors a key date in the history of a country. Although Australia was discovered by James Cook in 1770, it is January 26, 1788 that is the origin of the national holiday. Indeed, this is the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip at Sydney Cove. With its eleven ships, this Royal Fleet established the first British penal colony. For the record, a French Fleet, which had the same intentions, arrived shortly after.

Some key dates

New South Wales kicks off the festivities in 1838. Indeed, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the colony, the date is declared a public holiday.

The name Australia Day will take place in 1946. this is the year that the Commonwealth and the governments of all Australian states agree to unify their celebrations. January 26 officially becomes Australia Day.

Finally, in 1994, all Australian states and territories unite to make Australia Day a public holiday. Since then, it has been a festive day, with many celebrations across the country, or barbecues on the beach.

A controversial date

However, since the creation of this holiday, voices have been raised from all sides to question this choice. Indeed, January 26 also marks the beginning of the massacres of aboriginal populations and colonization. Members of the Aboriginal community regularly request a change of date. The first demonstration took place in Sydney in 1988 and since then, other voices have been raised to join the cause.

An evolution of mentalities

Each year, Australia Day has its share of celebrations of all kinds. Like our July 14th, there are many events across the country. Moreover, it is a public holiday for all Australians, a way of celebrating the end of summer. Remember that the seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed compared to the northern hemisphere.

Thus, Australians meet for a barbecue on the beach or for large parades in the city center.

Australia Day – Credit wikicommons

However, over the years, opinions regarding this national holiday have evolved.

Elise, expat in Australia for 7 years and married to an Australian, explains:

“The population is extremely divided on the subject. It’s no longer a carefree day on the beach or barbecuing. There are people who celebrate it, others who take it as a holiday. And others who refuse to celebrate it, because it means the death of thousands of aborigines. »

A population increasingly concerned?

Roy Morgan, an independent Australian studies and research agency, carried out a survey of Australians between 21 and 24 January.

For 65% of respondents, Australia Day must continue to exist as such. However, when we look more closely, opinions vary greatly depending on the age group of the respondents. Thus, Australians under 25 are 64% to estimate that it is an “Day of the invasion” against 36% the “Day of Australia”. For their counterparts aged 25 to 34, the finding is the same. 54% of them no longer wish to celebrate “Australia Day”.

Towards the end of Australia Day?

Opposition to Australia Day is therefore no longer limited to Aboriginal communities. Mentalities have evolved a lot and everyone can take sides at their level. Some companies have therefore chosen to no longer impose this day as a public holiday, as Déborah, expat in Australia, explains to us:

“I currently work at the Australian Red Cross where this day was discussed. They allow us to work if we wish on January 26 and to take a day off on another date, if this is not in accordance with our values. I don’t know if this is the majority practice in Australian companies. »

The city of Fremantle, next to Perth, has also chosen to move its celebrations to January 30, 2022 with the “One day in Fremantle”. The event aims to be “a culturally inclusive alternative to traditional Australia Day celebrations”.

Finally, demonstrations are taking place across the country to protest against Australia Day.

While the debate was limited to Aboriginal populations, a few years ago, Australians seem to be realizing the extent of the acts of the past. Australia Day is still relevant for a majority of Australians. However, the festivities associated with it seem to be set to evolve. Australia Day may soon no longer be a national celebration.

  • Elodie Quincieux fell in love with Australia. So much so that she founded an agency and a blog dedicated to French-speaking travelers who want to discover the mainland island. Naturally, she is our local correspondent.

    View all posts

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.