Saturday, 4 February 2017

Australia Day: what's in a date?

In 1838 there was an official proclamation of the Anniversary Day annual public holiday for 26 January to mark the Jubilee of the British Occupation of the colony of New South Wales.

 Advertisement for viewing the Sydney Regatta, 1838.
Source: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 25 January 1838, National Library of Australia

Australia Day as it eventually became known tended to float around a bit at first in many states, as the occupation of New South Wales was not considered a common ‘birthday’ for all the other states.

So Australia Day turned up on 22 January, 26 July, 27 July, 28 July, 30 July, and sometime in August.

Images found at Google Images

Eventually in 1994 all the states aligned their own individual dates with the NSW date of 26 January and Australia Day became a fixed national public holiday.

There is nothing intrinsically sacred about this date – it appears to be primarily valued because it creates another holiday in the middle of summer.

That attitude is very Australian and very healthy - one has only to remember Germany in the 1930s and look at the United States of America now to see how rigid and intolerant nationalistic fevour leads a country down dangerous paths.

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