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What is Australia Day?
On May the 13th 1787, 11 ships captained by Arthur Phillips departed from England, destined to travel across the globe to Australia in order to establish the first British settlement. Aboard the 11 ships were over 1000 people made up of 736 convicts (548 men and 188 women), 37 children and a few hundred marines to protect the settlement in its early days.
Over 9 months later on the 26th of January 1788 is the day it all changed. The day Captain Arthur Phillips arrived in Port Jackson (now part of Sydney Harbour) and classed it as “the finest harbor in all the world”. Upon landing ashore he raised the Union Jack and started the British colonization of Australia. This day wasn’t always celebrated though, it took 50 years until it was recognized as a public holiday. Right that’s the history of Australia Day over and done with….
Who celebrates Australia Day?
Well seen as its a public holiday, post offices are shut, public services down to a minimum and most shops are open for only a few hours, if at all. So in a way everyone! Who doesn’t like a free day off? Pretty sure if there was an England day…. well let’s just say I’d be down the pub. Statistically over 50% of Australian citizens actively celebrate Australia Day by attending community organized events.
On this day every year since 1949 there are ceremonies in each state that welcome thousands of new Australians. On average 16000 per year take the oath of loyalty and commitment to Australia and are given citizenship. Now if that isn’t a reason to celebrate, what is?
Then there’s the aborigines. I’m no expert on the matter but I’m pretty sure quite a lot would resent the day Captain Arthur Phillips rocked up on the shore of Sydney and changed their world for ever. Over recent years as relations between the British descendants and the indigenous grow stronger, more and more aborigines are starting to celebrate Australia Day. After all its a day not just for celebrating but a day for remembrance of the history that has shaped the nation of Australia to be what it is today.
What goes down on Australia Day?
As discussed earlier, the vast majority of Australians have the day off…. Barbecues out, sunnys on and let’s get drunk!!
To be fair there is a lot of community organized events being held all across Australia but for most its just used as a day to spend with friends and family reflecting on the past history and of course getting the “tinnies” out. There’s a real community spirit where everyone throws house/street parties, many people head down to the beach early for some sun bathing and beach parties. For many backpackers the beach is the place to go, especially if you’re in Sydney, Brisbane or any of the other major cities for that matter. Be sure to get down there early though as they will be packed beyond belief.
Capital cities always have a vast amount of entertainment on offer, from fairgrounds, public barbecues, fireworks, abseiling walls to open air DJ sets and party atmosphere to the early hours. Many of the larger bars in the cities will put themed nights and all day bar crawls on, just remember to pace yourself.
Battle plan for Australia Day….
To be completely honest, no matter where you are, no matter what you’re
doing, you’ll not miss out on the festivities! with over 50% of Ozzys celebrating the day you can’t escape it but let’s be serious who would want to!? Even if you just stayed in your hostel as I did one year (living in the middle of nowhere) everyone gets involved, there was home made costumes, goon pong, drinking games and one of the funniest nights of my life….well what I can remember.