Australia Day Not Celebrated Country-Wide Until 1994

On Jan. 26, 1788, the First Fleet, a group of 11 ships that had left Portsmouth, England, on May 13, 1787, arrived in an area of present-day Sydney. This moment was historic as it marked the arrival of European settlers to the world’s largest island, and this day, Australia Day, is celebrated across the country every year.

However, one aspect of this holiday that many do not know is that it was mostly ignored in many areas of Australia throughout much of its history. For example, Tasmania initially celebrated Regatta Day on Dec. 1 to celebrate both Abel Tasman landing there in 1642 and Tasmania separating from New South Wales in 1825. Meanwhile, Foundation Day was celebrated on June 1 by those located in Western Australia while South Australia had their main celebratory day of the year on Dec. 28: Proclamation Day.

Although Australia consolidated and became an independent country in 1901, it was not until 1930 when a campaign was undertaken to have Jan. 26 celebrated throughout the country as Australia Day. All of the states and territories agreed to do so in 1935. However, even then, it didn’t end up actually being celebrated everywhere on this day on a consistent basis. That did not start occurring until 1994.

It should also be pointed out that, even though Jan. 26 is now a national holiday, not every Australian celebrates it. In fact, a number of indigenous Australians refer to it as Invasion Day as, once Europeans had arrived here, their land had many more claims on it than had been the case. As a result, some are considering making a different day Australia Day or adding a holiday to recognize the tens of thousands of years of indigenous history that had preceded the arrival of Europeans on the continent.