Like India observes Republic Day on January 26, on the same date Australia Day is celebrated in the island nation to commemorate the arrival of the “First Fleet” of ships at Sydney from Britain in 1788. Some critics, however, call it “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day” as it marks the beginning of dispossession of the continent’s indigenous people.
Australia which is officially the Commonwealth of Australia is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the Tasmania island, and numerous other smaller islands. On the foundation day of the country, many people take the opportunity to get together with their family members to enjoy various functions and community events across the nation.
History of Australia Day:
Australia Day marks the 1788 landing of the first fleet of sheep led by Governor Arthur Phillip that consisted of 11 ships that were made up of two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships, and six convict transports. The Europeans found the area unsuitable for settlement, and they actually settled at Sydney Cove in Port Jackson on January 26th and raised the Union Jack. The anniversary is also termed by some as "Survival Day" and marked by events such as the Survival Day concert, first held in Sydney in 1992. The day has also been termed as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, and ANA Day, unofficially.
Significance of Australia Day:
In the early 1800s, some businessmen and politicians of New South Whales celebrated the events as Foundation Day in private dinner parties. Government and military officials have long taken a prominent role in the celebration of Australia Day with grand ceremonial events and functions. Local leaders are honoured for their service in the Australian of the Year Awards. After the European settlement, there was a significant change in the landscapes and the Australian system.
How is Australia Day celebrated?
Australian Day celebration is all about reflecting and honouring the nation's past and it is also an opportunity to celebrate the cultural diversity and rich migrant heritage which is very much part of the unique Australian identity. Aussies celebrate National Day by watching martial arts, and street dancing performances, attending musical concerts, and Coving performances, vibrant stage collaborations, and sharing delicious food.
Controversty around Australia Day:
In recent years, the celebration of this day has become controversial because of a “change the date” campaign, the supporters of which demand the date of Australia Day be changed from January 26 to May 9.
On May 9 in 1901, Australia’s first parliament was opened and the six British colonies united to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Significantly, the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people see January 26 as the day when colonists took over their lands and they maintain that their people continue to suffer the effects of colonisation and racism.
The “First Australians”–a term used to refer to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people of Australia–associate the day as the beginning of the time when they suffered massacres, land theft, stolen children and oppression.
Alternatively, there is the idea that Australia Day should be abolished as a national holiday, arguing that there is nothing to celebrate until more work is done towards bringing social justice for the indigenous people and acknowledging that the values the day celebrates, which includes equality, freedom and opportunity is not what many Australians experience.