Australia Day - Invasion Day

Most Australians celebrate Australia Day as the day Australia was founded. In contrast, Aboriginal people mourn their history and call it 'Invasion Day'.

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Selected statistics

Year by which all Australian states and territories (except NSW) used the term 'Australia Day' to mark the date.
Percentage of surveyed Australians who believe Australia Day has always been held on 26 January.
Percentage who could accurately name the historical event that occurred on 26 January.
Year when all states and territories consistently marked the day by a public holiday on that day.
Percentage who agree that Australia Day should not be on a day that is offensive to Aboriginal people.
Percentage who say that they don’t mind when we hold Australia Day, as long as we have a day to celebrate being a nation.
An Aboriginal man squatting on the footpath to let a toddler touch his guitar.
Two cultures meet on Australia Day. Their worlds might touch but their views can be worlds apart.

How 26th January 1788 became Australia Day

Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788 and raised the British flag for the first time in Sydney Cove.

In 1818, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the colony, the Governor of New South Wales gave all government employees a holiday (but only in that year).

Initially, it was only New South Wales that celebrated the day (for obvious reasons), and it was known as 'First Landing Day', 'Anniversary Day' or 'Foundation Day'.

In 1838, 50 years after the First Fleet arrived, Foundation Day was declared Australia's first public holiday in New South Wales.

By 1935, January 26 was known as Australia Day in all states except New South Wales where the name 'Anniversary Day' prevailed.

In 1946 the Commonwealth and state governments agreed to unify the celebrations on January 26 and call it 'Australia Day'.

Before 1994 Australia Day was the closest Monday to January 26 to ensure a long weekend. (This tells you a lot about Australian priorities!) Since 1994, Australia Day has been a public holiday throughout the country.

Why do we celebrate Australia Day?

Since 1994 all states and territories celebrate Australia Day together on the actual day. On this day ceremonies welcome new citizens or honour people who did a great service.

On the fun side are BBQs, contests, parades, performances, fireworks and more.

A National Australia Day Council, founded in 1979, views Australia Day as "a day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation" and a "day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the generations to come".

Where can I celebrate Australia Day with Aboriginal people?

  • Adelaide organises Survival at the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Tandanya, at Semaphore. (map)
  • Brisbane Check if there is an Invasion Day gathering in front of Parliament House and a protest march (this is sometimes advertised on Facebook). (map)
  • Canberra invites you to learn about Aboriginal culture and storytelling with dance and music in Commonwealth Park and at Australia Day Festival at the National Museum of Australia. (map)
  • Darwin holds an Invasion Day March in Civic Park. (map)
  • Fremantle celebrates One Day on 25 January on the Esplanade in Kidogo Arthouse Precinct. (map)
  • Hobart might have a march starting from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre on Elizabeth St. (map)
  • Melbourne holds the Share the Spirit festival in the Treasury Gardens (since 2002; map), and another Survival Day celebration in Borthwick Park, Belgrave. (map)
  • Newcastle might offer an Invasion Day march starting at Civic Park. (map)
  • New South Wales celebrates the Saltwater Freshwater Festival at 10 rotating locations (Coffs Harbour, Taree, Karuah and others).
  • Perth has an event called Birak Concert (Birak is the Noongar season for December and January; previously called Too Solid) in the Supreme Court Gardens. Survival concerts have been held in Perth since 2000. (map)
  • Sydney celebrates Yabun since 2003. It means "song with a beat" in the language of the Eora, the original people of the Sydney region. The event is held in Victoria Park (map). Alternatively you can join the Cooee Festival in Sydney's West at Regatta Park, Emu Plains. (map)
  • Townsville holds a Survival Day Concert at Perfume Garden Park. (map)

Check Facebook for up-to-date information on the above, and also sites of organisations that support Aboriginal people, such as Amnesty International.

Things you probably didn't know about Australia Day

Let's travel through time and discover a few myths and facts about January 26 you might not know :

  • We only celebrate a national Australia Day since 1994. Australia Day wasn't consistently celebrated on the 26th of January as a public holiday in all states and territories until 1994, even though the name 'Australia Day' dates back to the early 1900s. Other states didn't observe the day because it was significant only to New South Wales.
  • The first Australia Day was a response to Australia's involvement in World War I at a time when the country was shaping a national identity. The day was set to 30 July 1915.
  • Captain Arthur Phillip didn't land in Australia on 26 January. He first landed in Australia between the 18th and 20th of January 1788 in Botany Bay. But because he couldn't find fresh water there, he sailed into Sydney Cove on the 26th where he found Tank Stream -- problem solved.
  • 26 January 1824: The first mixed-race marriage. The first sanctioned marriage between an Aboriginal person and a convict occurred, by chance, on the 26th January 1824. Maria was the sister of Colebee who was captured, along with Bennelong, in 1789. She married Robert Lock, an illiterate, convict carpenter from England. This was the first legal Aboriginal-British marriage in the colony. She was survived by nine children.
  • 1888: The Premier who knew. When Henry Parkes, the then-Premier of NSW, was planning the upcoming 1888 Centenary celebrations, he was asked what - if anything - was being planned for Aboriginal people, to which Parkes retorted, "And remind them that we have robbed them?" His harsh, but truthful response came almost 100 years before Prime Minister Paul Keating's Redfern Speech in 1992, another rare, honest statement by a politician.
  • Day of Mourning. On 26 January 1938, Aboriginal people protested against Australia Day and called it a 'Day of Mourning'.
  • A forced reenactment. For the 150th Anniversary, Aboriginal people were forced to participate in a reenactment of the landing of the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip. Aboriginal people living in Sydney had refused to take part so organisers brought in men from Menindee, in western NSW, and kept them locked up at the Redfern Police Barracks stables until the re-enactment took place. On the day itself, they were made to run up the beach away from the British – an inaccurate version of events. It was Cook who was first "threatened and warned off by the Indigenous people on the shore" and he then decided to fire gun shots.
  • 26 January 1972: The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is established. Four Aboriginal men (Michael Anderson, Billie Craigie, Bert Williams and Tony Coorey) set up a beach umbrella on the lawns opposite Parliament House in Canberra in protest against the alienation of Aboriginal people by the government.
  • Harbour Bridge march. On 26 January 1988, up to 40,000 Aboriginal people (from as far away as Arnhem Land in the NT) and their supporters marched from Redfern Park to a public rally at Hyde Park and then on to Sydney Harbour to mark the 200th anniversary of invasion. It was the largest protest since the 1970s.
  • The Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It wasn't until 2013 that the Aboriginal flag and the Australian flag were raised together on Sydney Harbour Bridge for Australia Day.

The meaning of Australia Day for Aboriginal people

When you evaluate Aboriginal views on Australia Day remember that Aboriginal people are very diverse, and so are their views on this day.

To many there is little to celebrate and it is a commemoration of a deep loss. Loss of their sovereign rights to their land, loss of family, loss of the right to practice their culture.

"Australia Day is 26 January, a date whose only significance is to mark the coming to Australia of the white people in 1788. It's not a date that is particularly pleasing for Aborigines," says Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell . "The British were armed to the teeth and from the moment they stepped foot on our country, the slaughter and dispossession of Aborigines began."

Aboriginal people call it 'Invasion Day', 'Day of Mourning', 'Survival Day' or, since 2006, 'Aboriginal Sovereignty Day'. The latter name reflects that all Aboriginal nations are sovereign and should be united in the continuous fight for their rights.

Mansell believes that Australia celebrates "the coming of one race at the expense of another" .

"Australia is the only country that relies on the arrival of Europeans on its shores as being so significant it should herald the official national day," he says . "The USA does not choose the arrival of Christopher Columbus as the date for its national day. Like many other countries its national day marks independence."

Poster for Aboriginal Sovereignty Day 2007.
Aboriginal Sovereignty Day 2007. This protest poster summarises most of the issues Aboriginal people have to deal with today.

From an outside perspective one might think that Aboriginal people embrace the day to protest. But that is not necessarily so.

Aboriginal woman Professor Jakelin Troy is the Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney. "We shouldn't have to be marching and protesting and making big political commentaries in order to get recognition – that should be built into this day,” she says. “There should be, in all the advertising that goes out about Australia Day...it shouldn't be this frivolous, frothy sort of stuff about barbecues and coloured towels and spending the day at the beach. It should be, you know what does Australia Day mean for all Australians?"

A real Australian is someone who knows where they really, really come from.

— Bart Willoughby, Aboriginal musician

Poem: Australia Day 2014

I am not black
I am not white
I am not wrong
I am not right

I am now here
Not been before
My ancestors 
Are here no more

I am not black
I am not white
I am not wrong
I am not right

Their spirit lives in every way
Always will unto this day
They are so proud and love their land
Traditional custodians will stand

I am not black
I am not white
I am not wrong
I am not right

We have so much to offer all
Generations past still call
This great land of ours abounds
Where harmony and peace are found

I am not black 
I am not white
I am not wrong
I am not right

Proud and true is who we are
Some from here and some from far
Help each other the best we can
That makes us ALL Australian.

Poem by Sandra Gaal Hayman.

Homework: Homework

At the time Captain Cook came to Australia there were three legally recognised principles that governed the taking over or acquiring new land, according to 18th Century English and International common law:

  1. conquest, by the declaration of war;
  2. treaty, negotiated after victory in war; or,
  3. occupation by absence of presence on the land by people, land belonging to no one, also known as the terra nullius principle.


  • Which of the above do you think applies to what happened in Australia?
  • In the case that you selected, what are the consequences for Aboriginal people?
  • What are the consequences for how non-Aboriginal people in Australia think about their country's history?

Day of Mourning

On Australia Day's 150th anniversary, in 1938, William Cooper, a member of the Aboriginal Progressive Association, declared the day a "Day of Mourning", alluding to the annual re-enactment of Phillip's landing.

Aboriginal people refused to participate in the re-enactment because it included chasing away a party of Aboriginal people (which, by the way, had been carted to this event against their will).

Cooper and his fellow Aboriginal men Jack Patten and William Ferguson organised a conference to grieve the collective loss of freedom and self-determination of Aboriginal communities as well as those killed during and after European settlement in 1788.

Finally, by 1988, the re-enactments were discontinued. This same year was named a Year of Mourning by and for the Australian Aboriginal people.

On Australia Day Aboriginal people mourn their forbears who suffered and perished during colonisation.

Read what Aboriginal poet and Bayili woman Zelda Quakawoot thinks about the Day of Mourning and Australia Day :

"Historically the 26th of January has always been marked as our Day of Mourning. There is so much mental turmoil about Australian pride on this day. Not all Australians feel that sense of pride[,] and cultural diversity becomes a problem...

"There are layers of arrivals to this country. On Australia Day... it is difficult to identify the pride in the First Nations of this country, or even in the ways other cultures have become a part of this country’s make-up.

"The day historically is often dominated by loud mouthed drunkenness. It never feels like a celebration of cultural and social achievements for my families or other Aboriginal families.

"Aboriginal people did not and have never said 'no' to anyone entering this country, whether it was for trade or refuge. History tells us this through the Maccassans from Indonesia, who travelled quite regularly to the northern parts of Australia for trepang, and traded other goods and services many hundreds of years before Captain Cook landed."

We all still suffer from the life-draining, over-legislated madness called British Australia, which never seems to abate to the reason of sound voices or even democracy. Then they expect us to join in their triumphant dances over our ancestors' graves each January 26.

— Phill Moncrieff, Aboriginal musician

Story: Why Australia Day is a day of mourning to me

Nakkiah Lui is a young Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman from Mount Druitt, western Sydney. She explains why she cannot celebrate Australia Day :

"I'm an Aboriginal woman in her 20s who cruises dating websites, but it’s only four generations back that my family felt the direct consequences of foreigners invading our land.

"There's my great-great grandmother, who survived a massacre; my great grandfather, who was forced back to the mission after his father died and wasn't allowed to own land; my grandfather, who was given "dog tags" dictating he was an "honorary white man" after he returned from being a prisoner of war in World War II; my mother, who was encouraged to not finish high school because she was Aboriginal.

"This is why, for us, Australia Day is a day of mourning. It is not a day to go over to my friends' to sit in a blow up pool and get drunk, and it’s definitely not a day to wear red, white and blue while waving a flag with a Union Jack and a Southern Cross on it."

"I refuse to celebrate, and every Australia Day my heart is broken as I am reminded that in the eyes of many, I am not welcome on my own land," she says.

Survival Day, Invasion Day

Poster for the 2019 Yabun event.
Yabun poster of 2019. Notice the strong analogy with the painting 'Liberty Leading the People' by Eugène Delacroix which commemorates the French July Revolution of 1830; and the word 'Survival' which is what many Aboriginal Australia Day events are about. Design: Warumungu and Wombaya artist Jessica Johnson.

In 1992 the first Survival Day concert was held in Sydney. These concerts are often staged at places with great Aboriginal significance, for example La Perouse or Redfern. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists play music or dance, there are information, arts and crafts stalls, and you can buy food and bush tucker.

Survival Day has become one of the biggest Aboriginal cultural events that is staged throughout Australia. In all major cities you can visit alternative concerts where mainly Aboriginal people gather.

The name Survival Day expresses the fact that Aboriginal culture is still strong and many Aboriginal people's identities are positive and alive despite all what happened since colonisation.

We call it Survival Day. Whitefellas pretty much celebrating invasion and killing our mob off—that's what it feels like for us.

— Warrick Wright from the Aboriginal band Local Knowledge

However, to many Aboriginal people there is little to celebrate and it is a commemoration of a deep loss. Loss of their sovereign rights to their land and the right to practice their culture. Many of them rather call 26th January Invasion Day.

Well boys and girls, it's January in Australia, and we all know what that means: family holidays, sizzling barbecues and blatant racism.

— Tom Ballard, columnist at the Sun Herald

Video: January 26

January 26 is a rap song about the annual frustration many Aboriginal Australians feel from the "farce of a holiday", says Aboriginal musician Adam Briggs. Warning: Explicit lyrics!

A portrait of an Aboriginal man in his shower.
Bryan Andy, an Aboriginal man photographed for the About Face project by Keo Lin.

Story: Bryan Andy on Australia Day

"I call Australian day 'Invasion Day' or 'Survival Day'. The apology (by PM Rudd) was the first step, but there are still many many steps to go.

There's a saying that white Australia has a black history. It can sort of be taken in the sense that it has been a dark or unfortunate history, but it's also true in the sense that we were here first. Sometimes people think that Australian started 200 years ago with the invasion."

"While Australians celebrate a day that represents a history of booze, barbecues, bloodshed and theft, we continue our resistance," says Jidah Clark, youth delegate of the Aboriginal Provisional Government . "Despite the mindless nationalism of some Australians, we remember the invasion. This is invasion day."

We won't stop, we won't go away / We won't celebrate Invasion Day!

— Chant during protests on Australia Day 2012

January 26th marked the beginning of the murders, the rapes and the dispossession. It is no date to celebrate.

— Michael Mansell, National Aboriginal Alliance spokesman

Our Survival Day

Another Australia Day has arrived
Celebrations across our land
Guess they don't think what we've been through
Our ancestors tried to hold our land
Keep us together to protect our clans
Barbecues burning and sweet tasting wine
The white man's celebrating what belongs to us
But we're here in the background
Being proud of who we are
Our red, black and yellow unites us all
Saying we have survived another century
Of white man's invasion

Poem by Raylene Campion . Read more Aboriginal poems.

In a controversial move the City of Sydney Council decided in July 2011 to use the word 'invasion' in one of its official documents . Many white Australians were affronted by the word and felt it described the past, not the present.

But, as some commentators pointed out, "if the word 'invasion' is to have any meaning, then of course it has to apply to what happened. It does not mean,... [that we have] to 'uninvade' this land."

Remember, 'invasion' was only used to describe the arrival of the British in 1788, not the whole 200-years plus.

— Larissa Behrendt, Aboriginal law professor

Let's get the facts right and the facts are that this country was invaded.

— Chris Lawrence, Noongar man

Story: An Aboriginal perspective: "We will mourn the loss of our land"

Aboriginal woman Nala Mansell-McKenna reflects on the meaning of Australia Day for Aboriginal people .

"On January 26 Aborigines from across the country will mourn, just as we do every Anzac Day.

"We will mourn the deaths of the 50 Aboriginal men, women and children who were massacred at Risdon Cove while hunting kangaroo; we will mourn the deaths of those shot in cold blood while bathing in the waters of the Jordan River lagoon; we will mourn the loss of our land, the stolen children, the remains of our ancestors held in overseas institutions and everything else that our people have had to endure since the arrival of the white man on January 26, 1788.

"We will also call for the race-based celebrations of January 26 to come to a close and for a new date to be chosen, so that we can all proudly wave our flags and celebrate the wonderful country that we now share."

Towards a new Australia Day

Do you think the date of Australia Day should be changed?

Don't know

SMH survey 28/1/2017 (1,727 respondents)

Do you support changing the date of Australia Day from 26 January?

Strongly oppose

The Guardian 5/9/2017 (1,784 respondents)

Should the date for Australia Day be changed?

Don't know

SMH survey 20/1/2018 (479 respondents)

More than a third of Australians recognise that Australia Day is no longer an appropriate day for celebrations and call for a new day which includes all Australians. Some suggest to rename Australia Day to 'Arrival Day'.

People happy with the current Australia Day base their arguments often on racist grounds. But a majority of Australians actually don't care about the particular date and just enjoy the holiday. About 56% of surveyed Australians say they don't mind when the day occurs, challenging the notion that Australians see January 26 as sacred or untouchable.

Aboriginal singer and songwriter legend Archie Roach wants to celebrate Australia, just not on January 26. "We can’t be included, not on that date," he says. For him, "getting over it" is not an option. “‘Get over it’? I can’t get over stuff like that. It’s the history of this country, and if you can’t own all of the bad stuff and the good stuff, too, then what’s the point? Just understand that what we enjoy today came at a cost – a terrible cost – to the First People of this country.”

Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell believes a new public holiday should celebrate an inclusive Australia, but he calls for a treaty first.

"There may come a time... when a treaty has been made between Aborigines and Australia to include a land settlement, designated seats in the parliament and our own assembly... The date of the agreement could mark a new national date for celebration, where both peoples acknowledge each other's rights and aspirations, thus avoiding the current 'whites only' celebrations."

Others believe moving Australia Day would "elevate" one culture above another and "exacerbate... tensions in the community". Thousands who celebrate the day would deliver a "defiant response". Taking issue with a single day means to "reject colonial history in its entirety".

Change is coming

Climate change is slow and denied by some – traits shared by the political climate change that will see Australia Day moved or replaced.

In 2010 Mick Dodson, Aboriginal law professor and Australian of the Year 2009, expressed his hopes for a new day. "90% of people are saying Australia Day should be inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. I firmly believe that some day we will choose a date that is a comprehensive and inclusive date for all Australians."

Do you agree with the campaign to change the date of Australia Day from January 26th? (by age group)


SMH survey 24/1/2021 (1,222 respondents)

Polls published in the Sydney Morning Herald show no clear trend. While results slightly increased for "yes" respondents in 2017, the results in 2021 showed almost half the respondents did not want a change.

But if you differentiate the results by age group (see poll in this section) you notice how the younger generations are more open to a change of date, as are Australians who were not born in the country.

And almost half of all respondents believe that it is likely that in the next ten years Australia will change the date of its national day.

Councils and businesses react

In November 2013 Flinders Island council (Tasmania) decided to end its January 26 celebrations and instead support the Furneaux Islands Festival, held over 3 days in January and organised by the Flinders Island Aboriginal Association Incorporated (FIAAI).

On 24 August 2016 full Fremantle council (WA) voted 11-1 in favour of not hosting the city's usual fireworks event the next year "as a sign of respect to the local Noongar peoples and in recognition of changing attitudes towards January 26 as the national day of celebration." Instead the council wanted to consult with the city's Aboriginal elders and business community about "the most appropriate way to mark the occasion". Unfortunately the council had to submit to pressure from the federal government to reinstate its citizenship ceremony on Australia Day.

City of Yarra councillors in Melbourne on 15 August 2017 voted unanimously to no longer refer to 26 January as Australia Day in all official documents, but "January 26" instead, to stop citizenship ceremonies on that date and to support the campaign to change Australia Day in cognition of it being a day of distress for many Aboriginal people. In response, the federal government stripped the council of the power to hold citizenship ceremonies. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared the vote to be "utterly out of step with Australian values" and accused the council of seeking to divide Australia. "To change the date of Australia Day would be to turn our back on Australian values," he said.

Neighbouring Darebin council followed on 21 August 2017 with a vote of 6 to 2 in favour and Moreland City Council (a neighbour of Darebin) on 13 September 2017, although it will still hold citizenship ceremonies. In 2015, Moreland moved its annual citizen awards ceremony from January 26 to October out of respect for Aboriginal people.

Triple-J, which used to count down the "Hottest 100" songs on Australia Day, moved this program to the fourth weekend of January for the first time in 2018 because of the "increasing debate around 26 January".

On 20 September 2018, the Byron Shire Council announced it would hold its next Australia Day ceremony on 25 January. "26 January does not reflect the importance of the first Australians and their history,” it said in a media release. Moving the ceremony was "to acknowledge the concerns of our Aboriginal community with respect to the date of 26 January whilst still honouring the needs and values of those who wish to celebrate our successes as a nation."

Cricket Australia announced on 20 January 2021 that it would drop the term 'Australia Day' from its promotions for the Big Bash League competition scheduled for the weekend before the day in an attempt to "normalise conversations". Instead, it referred to it simply as 26 January.

The Victorian Merri-bek Council announced in December 2022 that it will replace citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day and hold a mourning ceremony instead. "The very idea that we celebrate, hold parties and welcome new people to this country on this day [Australia Day] is pretty shameful," said Councillor James Conlan.

Finally, in late 2021, the Australian government scrapped the requirement for citizenship ceremonies to be held on January 26.

This isn't about banning barbecues, it's about respect for the world's oldest living culture... This is a gesture of respect and an important step in healing.

— Samantha Ratnam, Moreland Councillor

One of the most powerful things you can do to support change is to work on Australia Day. Ask your manager or employer if you can swap it for another day.


Several cities and some states in the USA have replaced Columbus Day (second Monday in October) with Indigenous People's Day because they considered Columbus to be "a symbol of genocide for native peoples in North America". They include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis, Anchorage (Alaska), Phoenix, Portland (Oregon) and Albuquerque (New Mexico); and South Dakota, Hawaii, Vermont and Minnesota.

Employers allow staff to choose their holiday

Do you support or oppose giving employees this option [of taking a different day off]?

Strongly support
Undecided / neutral
Strongly oppose

Resolve Political Monitor poll; 1,606 responses

Nationally, hundreds of thousands of workers could choose to work on Australia Day in 2022 as many businesses allowed their employees to take another day off instead. Among the businesses were Woolworths, the Australian Public Service, Telstra, Paramount, Deloitte, PwC and the Wollongong University.

A Resolve Political Monitor poll asked Australians about this choice with the question "Several large companies have recently announced that they will give their employees the option to work on Australia Day and to have a day off in lieu of the public holiday at another time. Do you support or oppose giving employees this option?" 54% of respondents supported or strongly supported this choice.

Finding a new day to celebrate

Suggestions for a replacement day for Australia Day are as numerous as there are opinions. Here is a collection of suggestions I came across (tell me if you know about another):

  • 1 January. The anniversary of the day Australia technically came into being — the Federation of Australia on 1 January 1901.
  • 18 January. The Supply was the first of three ships of the First Fleet to reach Botany Bay on 18 January 1788.
  • Monday closest to 26 January. As early as 1930 the Australian Natives Association (made up by white Australian men) campaigned to make the Monday closest to January 26 a public holiday for Australia Day.
  • Last Friday of January. This way the date is not tied to any historical date, no fixed date, it marks the end of the long summer holidays and guarantees a long summer weekend.
  • 28 January. When Western Australia’s Fremantle Council decided to cancel its Australia Day event in 2017 they held it two days later.
  • 13 February. On 13 February 2008 the government apologised to the Stolen Generations.
  • 2 March. On this day in 1986 prime minister Bob Hawke and Queen Elizabeth signed the Australia Act 1986 which made Australia a fully independent and sovereign nation. It came into effect the following day.
  • 20 March. On 20 March 1913 Canberra was declared as Australia's capital.
  • 11 April. While over several decades many racist elements of the White Australia act were repealed, it wasn't until 11 April 1973 that Gough Whitlam's government finally abolished all notes of racism.
  • 19 April. 'Advance Australia Fair' was proclaimed as Australia's National Anthem on 19 April 1984.
  • 25 April – Anzac Day. Some argue that Anzac Day honours our history already and can be renamed to National Day.
  • 8 May. Suggested by Australian comedian Jordan Raskopoulos in a cheeky tweet: "Can we just have Australia Day on May 8? May8? M8! Maaaaaate!"
  • 9 May. This day marks the date of the first meeting of the Commonwealth parliament (1901), on which Australia became a self-governing and independent commonwealth.
  • 27 May. Following one of the few successful referenda on 27 May 1967, Aboriginal people were finally allowed constitutional rights and counted as citizens.
  • 3 June – Mabo Day. On the day the High Court overturned terra nullius and acknowledged native Aboriginal land rights.
  • NAIDOC Week. Some suggest to make one day during NAIDOC Week (the first full week of July) a new public holiday.
  • 30 July. This is the day of the first Australia Day back in 1915.
  • 1 September. First calendar day of spring, which is also called Wattle Day, and Australia's colours, green and gold, come from the wattle.
  • 17 September. On 17 September 1790, Governor Arthur Phillip met with Bennelong and his wife to apologise for abductions Phillip had ordered in order turn his captives into translators. Bennelong accepted the apology, and it became one of the first moments where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people came together in a spirit of reconciliation.
  • 1 December. Another cheeky suggestion – 1 December is the first calendar day of summer.

Other suggestions include replacing Queen's Birthday with a new Aboriginal public holiday and letting Aboriginal people decide on the name and occasion, and making January 26 'Makarrata Day', following the spirit of the Uluru Statement From the Heart.


Check out Pride and Pain – Things to Think about This Australia Day for a list of facts about the date.

I would however make a strong plea for a change of date. Let us find a day on which we can all feel included, in which we can all participate equally, and can celebrate with pride our common Australian identity.

— Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue, Aboriginal Australian of the Year 1984

Aboriginal hiphop musician Jeswon (Thundamentals) expressed his hope for a change of Australia Day in the 2017 song 'Change The Date' which is a collaboration of many artists.

Some say what's in a date?
Some say what's in a name?
Australia day
Invasion day
Homie that's one and the same
And I ain't pointing no fingers
I ain't throwing no blame
Just saying that we can do better
You know that it's time for a change

And here's my own reflection on that discussion (to the tune of Advance Australia Fair):

Australians let us all discuss
About Australia Day.
Some want to have this day removed
Or should it simply stay?
First People lost loved ones and land
And we should own our share.
In honesty we must proclaim:
Australia Day’s not fair.
Let’s face the facts history brings:
Australia Day’s not fair.

David Beniuk - January 26

Acclaimed songwriter David Beniuk questions why January 26th has been picked to be celebrated as Australia Day in his memorable song:


You find plenty of history of Australia Day on the site of the Australia Day Council of New South Wales.


View article sources (40)

[1] [1a] [1b] [1c] poll, The Australia Institute, December 2017 (1,417 surveyed Australians)
[2] '10 things you should know about January 26', SBS/NITV 21/1/2017
[3] 'Captain James Cook's landing and the Indigenous first words contested by Aboriginal leaders', ABC News 29/4/2020
[4] [4a] [4b] 'Why I turned down an Australia Day award', The Guardian 29/10/2013
[5] [5a] [5b] 'Protest vow to fight on', Koori Mail 519 p.39
[6] [6a] 'Australia Day celebrations leave a bad taste for Indigenous Australians', SBS News 23/1/2016
[7] Zelda Quakawoot, personal email, 28/10/2014
[8] Personal email, 10/2/2011
[9] 'Australia Day is a time for mourning, not celebration', The Guardian 26/1/2014
[10] 'Multiple choices on Australian values', Sun Herald 8/1/2017
[11] aboutface.canopeia.com, chapter 3, retrieved 26/12/2012
[12] [12a] 'For Mick Dodson, the work goes on', Koori Mail 468 p.21
[13] Koori Mail 468 p.26
[14] [14a] [14b] 'Council's 'invasion' decision divides', Koori Mail 505 p.9
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Cite this page

Korff, J 2023, Australia Day - Invasion Day, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australia-day-invasion-day>, retrieved 19 July 2024

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