Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th of January every year, marked by most Australians with a day off due to the national public holiday, along with parties, going to the beach and attending fireworks displays.
But do you really know what Australia Day really symbolises? We have compiled a list of some fun and interesting facts about Australia Day and our history that you may not have already known!
- Australia Day is celebrated on this day because in 1788, Captain Arthur Philip, commandeering a small fleet with 736 convicts, entered Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour, Australia), which he described as “the finest harbour in the world”. A landing party was sent ashore. This was to be the site of the new settlement.
• The first recorded Australia Day celebrations were held on January 26, 1808 to mark twenty years since Captain Arthur Phillip raised the flag at Sydney Cove.
• Lachlan Macquarie was the first Australian Governor to hold the first “official” Australia Day celebrations in 1818, to mark thirty years of European settlement. The celebrations included a thirty gun salute and a ball at Government House.
• Australia Day was called “Foundation Day” in the early part of the nineteenth century, and was typically marked by sporting events including horse racing and boat races.
• The first colony to declare Australia Day as a public holiday was New South Wales in 1838, on the 50th anniversary of the Sydney Cove landing.
• By 1888 nearly all of the colonies had declared a public holiday to celebrate Australia Day, but it wasn’t until the 1940’s that January 26th was agreed upon by all states as the proper day to celebrate.
• The two animals featured on the Australian coat of arms are the Emu and the Kangaroo – the reason for this being that neither animal can walk backwards, but instead can always go forwards, symbolising Australia’s desire to do the same.
- The name for the Australian marsupial kangaroo came about when some of the first white settlers saw this strange animal hopping along and they asked the Aborigines what it was called. They replied with ‘Kanguru’, which in the native language meant ‘I don’t know’.
- Australia has the longest fence in the world. It is called the ‘dingo fence’ and is about twice as long as the Great Wall of China.
- Many Aboriginal Australians do not like the idea of a day to celebrate the British landing, which is understandable.