“… With courage let us all combine / To Advance Australia Fair. / In joyful strains then let us sing, / Advance Australia Fair.”
— Australia’s national anthem, “Advance Australia Fair”
On January 26, 1788, a fleet of 11 British ships, commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip, sailed into Botany Bay with 736 convicts, ranging in age from nine to 82, sent to colonize New South Wales. Now known as Australia Day, January 26 is an official national holiday filled with countrywide events reflecting Australia’s diversity of society and landscapes.
Anniversary Day, Invasion Day, Foundation Day
Some of the former convicts and sons of convicts who prospered in the new colony first remembered the country’s beginning with an anniversary dinner — an “emancipation festival.” On the 30th anniversary in 1818, it was declared a public holiday. First called Anniversary Day, Invasion Day, and then Foundation Day, January 26 has been known as Australia Day since 1935 — 34 years after the colonies federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia.
According to the National Australia Day Council, it is a time for Australians everywhere to “inspire national pride and spirit to enrich the life of the nation.” Events include picnics, barbecues, pageants, parades, and corroborees — traditional Aboriginal music and dance festivals. Many citizenship ceremonies occur on Australia Day, as do ceremonies allowing Australian-born citizens to affirm loyalty to their country.
Celebrations in Sydney
Sydney’s celebrations begin with the WugulOra, the raising of the Aboriginal and Australian flags on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Most events take place around Sydney Harbor, such as the best-dressed vessel contest and the Ferrython, when decorated commuter ferries race from Circular Quay to Shark Island and return to the finish line under the bridge. Evening activities at Darling Harbor include concerts, followed by the Australia Day Spectacular with lights and fireworks.