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Australia Day - What it means to me

Updated: Jan 19

✦ Born and bred in Australia, January 26th - Australia Day, has always been a day of community celebration and pride to me.

A day to come together either with community at a town celebration, in a local park or, in my later years, a get together with family and friends at home on the farm.

Preparations begin many days prior as either way the 26th of January was, and still is, marked in my life. Many things to organise, from the food to the games, it is a day full of tradition for not only me, but many.

Whatever it means to you, I believe all Australians should take this day to relax with family and friends and be grateful that we do live in the lucky country.

But if, in these troubled times, you find yourself on your own, maybe in COVID isolation or separated from those you love due to other circumstance, take the Public Holiday to reflect on the good and your treasured memories. Look to the future with the Aussie way of “She’ll be right mate!” at the front of mind.


My school years were relaxed and fun. I grew up in a small country town in regional NSW and like others, learnt from a young age the history of Australia Day from books.

Firstly, Australia Day, held each year on the 26th of January, is a public holiday honouring the establishment of the first permanent European settlement on the continent of Australia.

On January 26, 1788, Arthur Phillip, who had sailed into what is now Sydney Cove with a shipload of convicts, hoisted the British flag at the site. In the early 1800s the date, called Foundation Day, was celebrated by politicians and businessmen of New South Wales with private dinners. It then began to be called Anniversary Day, and in 1836 the first Anniversary Regatta, still held as the Australia Day Regatta and the oldest such sailing race in the world, was run in Sydney Harbour.

In 1838, on the 50th anniversary of the settlement, official public celebrations were held for the first time. There were centenary celebrations throughout the continent in 1888, and in 1938, on the 150th anniversary, the day was proclaimed an official holiday.

In 1988, January 26 became a national public holiday, and, in an effort to end the practice in some areas of celebrating the day on the closest Monday, agreement was reached in 1994 that the holiday would be observed on the actual date.

Government and military officials have long taken a prominent role in the celebration of Australia Day, which includes many public ceremonies, and beginning in the 1940s, with increased immigration to Australia, the day became a time for naturalisation ceremonies. Sporting events, including horse races and regattas, have continued to be an important part of the celebrations, and the day’s festivities often end with fireworks.

Since the late 20th century, Aboriginals and their supporters have criticised Australia Day celebrations as excessively nationalistic and have sought greater recognition both of the indigenous inhabitants of the continent and of the effect on them of European settlement.

Australia Day will be celebrated on Wednesday, January 26, 2022.

Aussie Kids Reflect on Australia Day.

6 important facts Australians should know about January 26.

1. January 26 was the day the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove in 1788.

2. January 26 wasn’t adopted as "Australia Day" until 1935

3. The so-called ‘Australia Day debate’ was happening as early as the 1800s.

4. First Nations people declared January 26 a “day of mourning” in 1938.

Aborigines conference. Image from State Library.

The conference was chaired by Jack Patten (right). Image: Mitchell Library Printed Books Collection, State Library of New South Wales.

5. The largest protest over January 26 was held 32 years ago.

Australia Day Protestors outside NSW Parliament House 1988

Protestors outside NSW Parliament House on January 26, 1988. Image: Getty.

6. Most Australians associate Australia Day with... a holiday

IA McNair yellowSquares national poll commissioned by The Guardian in 2017 found that 68% of Australians felt positive about Australia Day. But the same poll also hinted at a possible explanation for why...

The three words most identified by respondents as associated with "Australia Day": barbecue, celebration and holiday.

For First Nations people, none of those were ranked among the top three. Theirs, instead...

Invasion, survival and murder.

The significance of the day differs amongst the nation’s population.

To me, Australia Day is all about sitting back and enjoying the Australian lifestyle, enjoying the spirit of the Aussie larrikin and having a bit of fun. Playing some games while waiting for the sausages to cook on the barbie and keeping the festivities going long into the arvo.

Australia Day wouldn’t be right without a barbecue, good friends and Australia Day games in the backyard or on the beach! Get your Aussie on with these Australia Day games – for kids and adults alike!

Australia Day Games

1. Toss the Thong or gumboot

You will need chalk or some sort of marker. You can either go the dartboard approach using a circle, closest to the bullseye, OR go for distance. Warning - these implements can cause injury! (FYI - thongs are also known as flip flops in other countries around the world)

2. Backyard Cricket

You might need to improvise with your stumps and even your bat, (a baseball bat can substitute a cricket bat) but if you prepare just a little, hopefully, you will use a cricket bat and ball on Australia Day. Either way, it’s Australia mate, and it really doesn’t matter either way!

3. Three-legged race

This is an old time favourite and a test of coordination. Find some old material to tie legs together with, stockings are traditional, and race to the finish line without falling over!

4. Water Fights/play

Whether you have a pool or just a couple of water pistols or a stash of water balloons, a hot day is always made better with water and even a sprinkler and a game of red rover will keep the heat down and the fun happening!

5. Beach Frisbee and/or football

You really can’t get more Australian than a frisbee or football on an Australian Beach... just make sure you slip slop slap (wear sunscreen) and drink lots of water.

6. A to Z of Aussie items

Great to play with the kids – who is the fastest person to name an Aussie item for each letter of the alphabet?

7. Australia Day Quiz

This can be fun for all ages. Buy some trashy $2 prizes and discuss your answers over some yummy slices of Australian watermelon, some pavlova or a lamington or two.

8. Egg and Spoon Races

This is an undervalued game at parties everywhere – great entertainment can be had by watching little and big kids race each other with an egg balancing precariously on a spoon.

9. Bite the Arnotts Biscuit

This is a fun one for the little kids to nibble their way through an Arnott's milk arrowroot bikkie until they think it resembles the shape of Australia. The closest one wins!

10. Best Dressed

Make your Australia Day Celebration into a fancy dress. The person who made the least effort wins…

No.1 rule on Australia Day: relax and have fun, because that is what being an Australian is all about, mate!


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