By Michael CrooksWednesday 25 Jan 2023NewsReading Time: 3 minutes
The Prime Minister calls it a day to “bring the nation together and provide an uplifting moment” but as Australia Day is upon us once more, it again comes with celebrations, awards and controversy.
The day, which has been celebrated as a public holiday on January 26 since 1938, “is the day to reflect on what it means to be Australian, to celebrate contemporary Australia and to acknowledge our history,” reads a statement on the official Australia Day website.
The day acknowledges the contribution all Australians make to our nation, and recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived here for more than 65,000 years before European settlement.
According to the government, more than half of all Australians participate in official Australia Day events and more than 16,000 people nominate the day to become Australian citizens.
In Canberra from 9am, there is the National Citizenship and Flag Raising Ceremony on the banks of the capital’s Lake Burley Griffin.
Following this, an Australian Citizenship Ceremony will welcome new Australian citizens. The Australian National Flag will then be flown overhead by a Seahawk helicopter and raised onstage by Australia’s Federation Guard.
In Sydney, Australia Day kicks off with a reflective moment on its iconic harbour. From 5:20am to sunrise, a First Nations artwork will be projected onto the country’s most famous canvas: the Sydney Opera House.
Meanwhile, the Australian flag and the Aboriginal Flag will be raised on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Brisbane’s South Bank will also come alive with Great Australian Bites, with pop-up stalls serving food as local performers take to the stage for a day for the whole family.
More events for each state and territory can be found here.
There are also Australia Day awards and honours which “recognise outstanding achievement and service by members of our community”.
The Australia of the Year is named on January 25. The award also includes Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year, and Australia’s Local Hero.
While Australia Day is intended to be a day of celebration, pride and acknowledgment, it is commemorated on the date of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, which is an ongoing source of pain for Indigenous Australians.
It is expected there will be “Invasion Day” protests and rallies in Australian capital cities, including rallies where Indigenous Australians and their supporters will march for treaty and sovereignty – rather than the proposed Voice to Parliament, which the government will put to a referendum this year.
“The main message for us to deliver [at the rally] is that, for a lot of us, we are not for the Voice, we are for sovereignty,” Stanley, who is a caretaker at Canberra’s Aboriginal Tent Embassy, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s about our self-determination as Aboriginal people, as original sovereigns of this country.”
Change the date?
Further, Perth will not be holding an Australia Day fireworks event this year, for the time in 40 years, due to “waning interest” and the exorbitant cost.
“I … understand that people don’t want to party on January 26 anymore,” Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said.
“The view of the date now is different to what it was.”
Still, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said there are no plans to change the date of Australia Day.
“I’d say let’s focus on recognising the fact that our nation’s birth certificate should proudly recognise that we did not begin in 1788, which is what the 26th of January commemorates, it began many years ago with the oldest continuous civilisation on earth. That should be a source of pride,” Mr Albanese said.
Reflect, Respect, Celebrate
Again running with the theme “Reflect, Respect, Celebrate”, the National Australia Day council is encouraging people from all walks of life to share their Australian story:
This is the Story of Australia – the story of an extraordinary nation.
The Story begins many years ago. New chapters are written every day.
On Australia Day, we reflect on our history, its highs and its lows.
We respect the stories of others.
And we celebrate our nation, its achievements and most of all, its people.
We’re all part of the story.
For more information visit here.
Feature image: Aus Day Facebook