January 26 is approaching and you know what that means: a day off (at least for me). While the purpose of Australia Day is to commemorate the anniversary of the First Fleet arriving at Sydney Cove in 1788, there are many Australians who tend to celebrate for different reasons.
Though it seems logical that Australia Day started after Federation happened in 1901, the Australia Day holiday has been celebrated by Australia’s states and territories when they were still still colonies, albeit with different dates and names for the day. Tasmania celebrated Regatta Day in December, South Australia had Proclamation Day on December 28, and Western Australia had Foundation Day on June 1. It wasn’t until 1888 when the colonies started coming around to the idea of a national holiday for the beginning of their country, but even then, not all the colonies got involved. South Australia didn’t start celebrating Australia Day until 1910, and Victoria was really behind the pack and didn’t get involved until 1931!
The media idealisation of Australia Day portrays a multicultural bunch having barbeques with their families, friends and neighbours to instil a sense of national unity. Cynics, however, see this as an excuse for companies to exploit peoples’ patriotism to sell Aussie-themed products (like Sam Kekovich doing his meaty version of ‘Barbie Girl’).
The Big Day Out is held in late January and one of the touring dates usually falls on Australia Day. Both Aussie and international acts will get the crowds going off with their sense of patriotism and their urge to party hard.
Even for those who wouldn’t go anywhere near a music festival, music plays a big part on Australia Day. If you listen to the radio or watch the TV you’re bound to hear a Men At Work tune and possibly some real Aussie golden oldies such as ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘Advance Australia Fair’.
Two of the more prestigious events that occur every Australia Day are the citizenship and the Australian of the Year ceremonies.
However, Australia Day is not thought of as a joyous day by everyone. For many Aboriginal communities, Australia Day is a reminder of the pain and suffering they have faced ever since the British settlers came to Australia.
Ever since 1988, Aboriginal Australian protesters have participated in what is called Invasion Day, an event not only pointing out the suffering Indigenous communities have faced due to the mistreatment from the Australian government, but also raise awareness of their needs, land rights, equality and reconciliation — to name but a few of their concerns. Protesters camp in front of Parliament House to maintain public awareness.
While there are different connotations of Australia Day around the country, for the most part the date is viewed positively by throughout Australia. At the very least, you get a day off work, so enjoy it!
Originally published here at milkbarmag.com on Thursday 26 January 2012