Australia Day

What is Australia Day?

History of Australia Day

On 13 May 1787 a fleet of 11 ships, which came to be known as the First Fleet, was sent by the British Admiralty from England to Australia. Under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, the fleet sought to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay on the coast of New South Wales, which had been explored and claimed by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. The settlement was seen as necessary because of the loss of the Thirteen Colonies in North America. The Fleet arrived between 18 and 20 January 1788, but it was immediately apparent that Botany Bay was unsuitable.

On 21 January, Phillip and a few officers travelled to Port Jackson, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) to the north, to see if it would be a better location for a settlement. They stayed there until 23 January; Phillip named the site of their landing Sydney Cove, after the Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. They also had some contact with the local aboriginal people.

They returned to Botany Bay on the evening of 23 January, when Phillip gave orders to move the fleet to Sydney Cove the next morning, 24 January. That day, there was a huge gale blowing, making it impossible to leave Botany Bay, so they decided to wait till the next day, 25 January. However, during 24 January, they spotted the ships Astrolabe and Boussole, flying the French flag, at the entrance to Botany Bay; they were having as much trouble getting into the bay as the First Fleet was having getting out.

On 25 January the gale was still blowing; the fleet tried to leave Botany Bay, but only HMS Supply made it out, carrying Arthur Phillip, Philip Gidley King, some marines and about 40 convicts; they anchored in Sydney Cove in the afternoon.

On 26 January, early in the morning, Phillip along with a few dozen marines, officers and oarsmen, rowed ashore and took possession of the land in the name of King George III. The remainder of the ship's company and the convicts watched from on board the Supply.

Meanwhile, back at Botany Bay, Captain John Hunter of HMS Sirius made contact with the French ships, and he and the commander, Captain de Clonard, exchanged greetings. Clonard advised Hunter that the fleet commander was Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse. The Sirius successfully cleared Botany Bay, but the other ships were in great difficulty. The Charlotte was blown dangerously close to rocks; the Friendship and the Prince of Wales became entangled, both ship losing booms or sails; the Charlotte and the Friendship actually collided; and the Lady Penrhyn nearly ran aground. Despite these difficulties, all the remaining ships finally managed to clear Botany Bay and sail to Sydney Cove on 26 January. The last ship anchored there at about 3 pm.

Note that the formal establishment of the Colony of New South Wales did not occur on 26 January, as is commonly assumed. That did not occur until 7 February 1788, when the formal proclamation of the colony and of Arthur Phillip's governorship were read out. The vesting of all land in the reigning monarch King George III also dates from 7 February 1788.

What is Australia Day?

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and rising of the Flag of Great Britain at that site by Governor Arthur Phillip. In contemporary Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community. Australia Day can also be called Foundation Day, Anniversary Day, Survival Day, Invasion Day and Day of Mourning (in 1938 & 1970)


How do we celebrate Australia Day?

Decide how you'd like to celebrate. There are many ways to celebrate Australia Day and all of them are good because you can catch up with mates. Probably the main "rule", if there are any rules, is just don't celebrate it alone! Get out there and enjoy it with lots of other people.

Dress up in Aussie colours. Use clothes, face paints, temporary tattoos, sunbrellas, jewellery etc. in a range of styles and colours to suit the occasion.

Watch the fireworks. Many cities and towns have fireworks in the evening. Grab a blanket, a picnic basket, some food and drinks and head out at a reasonable hour to get a good vantage point. Take a radio if the radio show follows the fireworks; many stations add music that is timed to the fireworks.

Fly the Australian flag. Hoist an Australian flag up in the front yard, hang it from your car or wear it emblazoned across a t-shirt. You can choose from the Australian National flag, the Aboriginal flag, the Torres Strait Islander flag or other Australian flags.

Make Australian food. Bake up a feast of lamingtons, pavlova, koala shaped biscuits and meat pies. Make a cake in the shape of Australia. Make a pie floater or two for the 3am munchies.