Programs & Awards

Australia Day

On Australia Day, let's reflect, respect and celebrate. We're all part of the story.

On Australia Day we can celebrate all the things we love about Australia

More than half of all Australians get involved in Australia Day, participating all around the country. From the biggest cities to our smallest, most remote townships, there are thousands of inclusive events and activities taking place. But we also recognise that Australia Day can mean different things for different people and that it can be hard for some. Which is why we want Australia Day to be a time we can recognise the contribution of all Australians ranging  from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – who have been here for more than 65,000 years, to those who have lived here for generations and those who have come from all corners of the globe and call our country home.

The national campaign for Australia Day is called, We’re all part of the Story and it is based on the notion that all Australians play a part in our national identity.

On Australia Day, we urge everyone to take time out to reflect on our history, what impact it had on our first peoples, and pay respect to all those who sacrificed  much along the way to getting to where we are today.

Whether it’s the land, sense of fair go, our lifestyle, democracy, the freedoms we enjoy and most importantly, the stories of our people. No matter where each of our personal stories began, Australia Day is when we can all come together and pay tribute to our diversity, promote reconciliation and celebrate our progress as a dynamic, modern society, unique for its wonderous, ancient culture.

Australia Day is when we should acknowledge and celebrate the contribution that every Australian makes. From our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – who have been here for more than 65,000 years – to those who have lived here for generations and to those who have come more recently to call our country home.

Australia Day and new Citizenship.

Australia Day is now the biggest time of the year when we confer our newest Citizens. All over the country hundreds of Citizenship ceremonies, welcome thousands of our newest citizens as Australians, who all play an important role in our national identity and importantly who will contribute to and share our common future. Get in touch with your local council and check out what they are up to on Australia Day.


Australia Day and First Nations’ peoples

January 26 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia and the raising of the Union Jack was the beginning of British colonisation and the taking of land that First Nations’ Peoples had lived on and cared for, for many thousands of years. Consequently, it is often called Invasion Day, the day that Australia was “entered to take possession ”, which is what unfolded after the British raised their flag and the colony spread across land that wasn’t theirs and is why many First Nations reject the celebration of Australia Day January 26 and use this time to affirm they never ceded sovereignty.

Other First Nations’ peoples refer to 26th January as Survival Day, which recognises the enduing fortitude of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It also provides an opportunity to celebrate survival of First Nations’ people and cultures despite the ongoing impacts of colonisation and attempts through Government Policies to sever First Nations’ bloodlines and abolish culture, kinships and belief systems.

As such, the date has long been a difficult symbol for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who see it as a day of sorrow and mourning.


History of Australia Day

The marking of 26 January is an important date in Australia’s history and has changed over time: starting as a celebration for emancipated convicts and evolving into what is now a recognition of an Australia that reflects the nation’s diverse people.

  • In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook was on a voyage to find new land for the British Crown, when he ‘discovered’ what we now call Australia, and claimed it terra nullius or land belonging to no-one.
  • With the belief the land was uninhabited, 11 convict ships from Great Britain sailed into Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788 and Captain Arthur Phillip made his way to the shore and raised the British flag claiming the land in the name of King George III.
  • Prior to the Federation of Australia in 1901, New South Wales was the only colony that celebrated the anniversary of January 26, calling the commemoration various names such First Landing Day and Foundation Day.
  • It was not until 30 July 1915, that Australia had the first nationally accepted Australia Day, which was part of a fundraising program for soldiers and their war efforts throughout the Gallipoli campaign.
  • Then, in 1935 all states and territories agreed to celebrate Australia Day together, observing a public holiday on the Monday closest to January 26.
  • The federal government began promoting an Australia Day that was less British and more Australian from around 1979 in the hope of unifying Australia’s increasingly diverse population as the white Australia policy was being dismantled.
  • In 1994, Australia Day became a national public holiday with all states and territories earmarking January 26 for the celebration.

View a history of Australia Day.


Buy your Australia Day merchandise here.


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