*Is Australia Day a national day OR a celebration of invasion?
Australia Day is the official national day of Australia which was designed to replace all the other separate State proclamation days. It is observed annually on 26 January, and theoretically, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in New South Wales, and the raising of the British flag at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip.
In present-day Australia, celebrations aim to 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 members of the Australian community.
“In Sydney, the harbour is a focus and boat races are held, such as a ferry race and the tall ships race. In Adelaide, the key celebrations are “Australia Day in the City” which is a parade, concert, and fireworks display held in Elder Park, with a new outdoor art installation in 2019 designed to acknowledge, remember and recognize Aboriginal people who have contributed to the community. Featuring the People’s March and the Voyages Concert, Melbourne’s events focus strongly on the celebration of multiculturalism The Perth Skyworks is the largest single event presented each Australia Day.”
The date of 26 January 1788 marked the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia (then known as New Holland). Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818.
On New Year’s Day 1901, the British colonies of Australia formed a federation, marking the birth of modern Australia. A national day of unity and celebration was required,..but,.. it was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories adopted the use of the term “Australia Day” to mark the date, and not until 1994 that the date was consistently marked by a public holiday on that day by all states and territories.
In contemporary Australia, the holiday is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year Awards on Australia Day Eve, the announcement of the Australia Day Honours list, and addresses from the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. It is an official public holiday in every state and territory.
“With community festivals, concerts, and citizenship ceremonies, the day is celebrated in large and small communities and cities around the nation. Australia Day has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia.”
Some Indigenous Australian events are now included. However, since at least 1938, the date of Australia Day has also been marked by Indigenous Australians, and those sympathetic to the cause, mourning what is seen as the invasion of the land by the British and the start of colonization, protesting its celebration as a national holiday.
These groups sometimes refer to 26 January as Invasion Day, Survival Day, or Day of Mourning to observe it as a counter-celebration and advocate that the date should be changed or that the holiday should be abolished entirely.
The Arrival of the First Fleet – Official History
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 New Holland. 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 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 traveled to Port Jackson, 12 kilometers (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 made 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, on 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. 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 La Pérouse. Sirius successfully cleared Botany Bay, but the other ships were in great difficulty.
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.
Capt. Arthur Phillip raising the British flag at Sydney Cove, 26 January 1788.
Foundation of Australia plaque, Loftus Street, Circular Quay
So it was on 26 January that a landing was made at Sydney Cove and clearing of the ground for an encampment immediately began. Then, according to Phillip’s account:
“In the evening of the 26th the colours were displayed on shore, and the Governor, with several of his principal officers and others, assembled round the flag-staff, drank the king’s health, and success to the settlement, with all that display of form which on such occasions is esteemed propitious, because it enlivens the spirits, and fills the imagination with pleasing presages.”
— The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay
*The Sydney Times acknowledges the use of Wikipedia resources in this article