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Celebrated each year on January 26, Australia Day is the country’s official national day.

It’s a public holiday made to reflect on what it means to be Australian, to celebrate contemporary Australia and to acknowledge our history.

Historical Origins of Australia Day

Australia Day marks the date of the arrival of the first British fleet in Australia in 1788. The fleet arrived at Port Jackson – now Circular Quay in Sydney. Governor Arthur Philip raised the British flag and a penal colony was founded.

January 26th is the day Australia was officially recognised as British, not the date of its discovery. It is widely claimed that Australia was “discovered” eighteen years earlier, in 1770, by Lieutenant James Cook but in actual fact there is evidence of other explorers many hundreds of years earlier. 

Australia Day has been named differently through history: Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, ANA Day… Australia Day grew in popularity in the late 1980s and it was (only) in 1994 that all Australian states and territories embraced January 26th as a national holiday.

Australia Day Criticism: Invasion Day

Some people have started referring to this day as Invasion Day, recognising that this is the actual date the English invaded a land inhabitant by the First Nation’s people of Australia. For them, the beginning of the British colonization marks the massacre of millions of Indigenous People over the centuries. This trauma is still vivid in the memories of First Nation’s people who feel treated as a minority and their rights neglected. For this reason, many people are suggesting the national day of Australia should be celebrated on a day that is not aligned with the invasion. 

Thus on Australia Day, it is not uncommon to witness protests aiming to raise awareness and debate the choice of date and its historical implication. 

Some states are starting to integrate events related to First Nations Australians. For example, in Sydney, you can attend a WugulOra Morning Ceremony,  an ancient smoking ceremony which celebrates the world’s oldest living culture through dance, music and language.

How to celebrate Australia Day like a real aussie

Australians celebrate their National Day by meeting with family and mates, firing up a barbie and cracking open a cold beer.

Aussies usually celbrate at the beach or other outdoors venues, since it is still summertime and the weather is good.

There are many activities organized such as concerts, festivals, art exhibits, parades… Many city councils will hold a public fireworks display for all to enjoy!

Oh, and no matter what way you decide to celebrate Australia day, don’t forget to wear funny clothing relating to Australia. The crazier the better!