As memories of Christmas rapidly fade away and the Australian summer gets into full swing, Aussies look ahead to the stream of upcoming public holidays and a chance to relish the hot days and sultry nights without thought of the office grind or city commute.
One such public celebration generally considered to be the most important is Australia Day, the official national holiday of Australia celebrated every year on 26 January. While the day formally recognises the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships in Sydney Cove back in 1788, modern Australia celebrates the day in a number of contemporary ways.
Public events and citizenship ceremonies take place across the country as people come together to reflect on the country’s history, progress and current place in the world. Community barbeques are held, local councils arrange fireworks displays, and the winner of the Australian of the Year is announced on the eve of Australia Day.
On the less serious side, this national day of unity and commemoration results in thong-throwing competitions, surf board and ferry races on Sydney Harbour, and thousands listening to the Triple J Hottest 100 music hits broadcast by the national radio station throughout the day. It’s a time to get together with friends and family, cover the body with temporary Australian flag tattoos, eat serves of Lamingtons and Pavlova desserts, and let nothing stop you from enjoying this great excuse for a party.
The day isn’t without its criticism, with many Indigenous Australians seeing it as a symbol of the adverse effects of British rule on Australia’s indigenous population and suggesting that an alternative date be used for the celebration of Australia as a modern nation.
For me, this will be my seventh consecutive Australia Day which I always find to be a unique experience given the lack of similar national holiday in the UK and because, as an expat, you can’t help but feel slightly like an outsider as the locals loudly rejoice in their country and its successes. Yet it’s such an openly celebrated day that it’s hard not to be drawn into the festivities and exuberance of it all.
Whatever the choice of celebration, Australia Day is a time for all Australians – citizens and permanent residents alike – to reflect on their history, achievements, and values. For this is the country that gave the world Ugg boots and ACDC, koalas and kangaroos, Steve Irwin and Crocodile Dundee. Now surely that is a reason to celebrate.
Russell is a British expat living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where he writes about his search for a life less ordinary at www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com, one of Australia’s leading expat and travel blogs.
He also writes for businesses and brands at www.theinternationalwriter.com and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram as @russellvjward.