Newsletter : Australia Day
My birthday falls on January 26 - the same day that Australians celebrate Australia Day. As a result I take more interest in this national celebration than I do in many other public holidays. Despite its importance for Australians, Australia Day is a relatively new event. It wasn't until 20 years ago (in 1994) that it became a nationwide public holiday taking place on the same day in all of the States and Territories. A recent survey revealed that 28% of Australians attended an organized Australia Day event and a further 26% celebrated with family and friends making Australia Day the largest annual public event in the country.
[Fireworks in Perth, Western Australia]
So, how do Australians celebrate this big day? Typically, they go to outdoor concerts, community barbecues, sports competitions and local festivals. (Don't be surprised by all these outdoor activities -after all, the holiday takes place right in the middle of the Aussie summer!) And there are plenty of fireworks. Over 400,000 people turn out each year to watch the huge fireworks display in Perth, Western Australia - making it the single biggest event on Australia Day.
When I lived in Sydney, I went down to the harboron Australia Day. I wanted to see the various boat races - a tradition that stretches back to 1837. My favorite contestis the Ferrython with passenger ferries racing around the harbor to finish under the Harbor Bridge. It's a wonderful spectacle with crowds lining the harbor and cheering the boats on. The passengers on board the ferries get pretty excited too!
Here's what some friends wrote about last year's Australia Day celebrations:
On the eve of Australia Day each year, the Prime Minister announces the winner of the "Australian of the Year" awards presented to Australian citizenswho have been 'inspirational role models for the Australian community'.Winners are often sports players, but have included scientists, musicians, a dancer, a painter, a comedian and Nobel Prize winning novelist. There are also awards for Australia's "Local Heros". For example, Jonathon Welch won the award in 2008 for his work in creating a choir for homeless people in Melbourne. And in 2010, Ronni Kahnwon the award for setting up the food rescue charity, OzHarvest. Her charity rescues excess food that would otherwise be thrown away and distributes the food to other charities.
Oh, and in case you're wondering why Australia Day falls on January 26th -- that was the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven ships from Great Britain, arrived at Sydney Cove. At first, the day was known as First Landing Day or Foundation Day, but from 1988 the day became known as Australia Day.