Australia Day Celebrations : Australia Day -

26th January

From the earliest white settlement at the end of the 18th century, Australians have striven to celebrate a national day, and in so doing, define what it means to be Australian. January 26 has traditionally marked the landing of Captain Arthur Phillip at Port Jackson in present-day Sydney, thereby claiming Australia for the British Empire. Early settlers, perhaps naturally, marked the anniversary. Australia Day has evolved from a small commemorative New South Wales holiday into a major national celebration. Though it has often been criticised, it remains the most inclusive celebration of a national day in Australia, expressing the national diversity which has become such an important part of the Australian national character.

In 1946, the Commonwealth Government, States and Territories agreed to observe one national day 'Australia Day' under one banner and on the same day. During this period the celebrations continued to have a largely imperial feel consisting mainly of formal re-enactments of the First Fleet's landing. The National Australia Day Council was formed in 1979, with state and territory councils and committees soon after. From their inception they have encouraged more 'grass roots' celebrations, working with local government authorities to promote the wider celebration of Australia Day. However, the Australia Day public holiday was still held on the Monday closest to January 26 and to the broader community it was just another holiday.

Alongside the celebrations 1988 was named a Year of Mourning for Australia's Aboriginal people, who also regarded the year as a celebration of survival. It was the most vocal indigenous presence ever felt on 26 January. Since the bi-centenary Australia Day celebrations have continued to grow in number and stature with the celebrations continuing to involve a larger and broader audience. It was not until 1994 however, that all the states and territories endorsed the celebration of Australia Day on the actual day instead of the closest Monday. United Australia Day celebrations have been held on 26 January ever since.

While formal dinners and informal celebrations to mark the landing of the First Fleet at Camp Cove were held on the 26 January each year, the first official celebration of English colonisation was held in 1818. During the colonial period, 26 January was called Foundation Day in New South Wales. Other colonies celebrated with their own dates of significance relating to the founding of their colonies. Western Australia, for example, celebrated Proclamation Day on 21 October each year. Since 1901, when Australia was declared a nation, the landing of the First Fleet at Camp Cove has evolved from a small commemorative New South Wales holiday into a major national celebration, recognised as Australia Day. From 1994 all states and territories agreed to celebrate Australia Day on the actual day. The date of arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson is today celebrated as the founding of the modern Australian nation.

Australia Day today is a community day recognizing both the settlers and the indigenous people of Australia. The formal ceremonies start on Australia Day eve and continue through to the next day. Flag raising, citizenship ceremonies and the presentation of community awards are combined with breakfats, local events and fun activities for families throughout Australia. Fireworks and parades can be seen in communities of all sizes. The Lawns of Parliament House in Canberra are the site of festivities, concerts and lightshows.

Organise a flag raising ceremony with your family. Hang the Australian Flag from windows. Have an Australia Day concert and hold an Australia Day Quiz to mark Australia Day.
Arrange a presentation about your family or community history and heritage and invite local families to attend. Arrange for school, church and other bells to be rung at a set time on Australia Day. Make your garden, house or school colourful with balloons in our Australian colours of green and gold.
Summer and Australia Day are synonymous. Build an Australia Day sand castle. Shape it like a flag, an Aussie thong, a cockatoo, kangaroo or koala. Take a canvas sun hat and hang corks on it - Aussie style! Get out your Vegemite sandwiches and give three cheers for Australia.
Feast together on Australia Day by getting everyone to bring along an addition to your Australia Day Feast. Make an Australia Day cake. Decorate it with the Aussie flag, or in colours of green and gold. Decorate your Australia Day lunch or dinner table with green and gold capsicums. Add some mini Australian flags and drink a toast to Australia with some iced billy tea
Make an Aussie mask - koalas, kangaroos, crocodile, famous faces ‘think, singers, sports stars, etc. Make lamingtons and give them to your neighbours. Create a mural using Aussie icons and colours and bushland found objects.
Go to an Indigenous cultural event or gallery showing Australian Aboriginal work. Find out more about the dreamtime and the stories behind the work. Try some bush food (also known as bush tucker). Ask an Aboriginal friend to tell you more. Think about and try to learn more about the Indigenous culture. Check out your local library for all things Australian.
Plan a sports carnival and get the whole street or community involved. Include friends from other cultures and show them what's good about Australia. Summer is Aussie cricket time so organise an Australia Day cricket match.
Picnic it! Australians picnic on the beach, by the river, near the dam or in the back yard - whatever the location, an Australia Day Picnic puts everyone in the mood for sharing and celebrating. With Australia's multicultural heritage there's no shortage of creative dishes to add to the mix.
Paint the Australian flag on your cheek. Decorate the school room or your bedroom with things Australian. Send an Australia Day greeting to friends around the corner, around Australia or overseas. Get everyone a 'coldie holder' with an Australian flag on it. Use it for your cold drinks on Australia Day and every day.

Last but not the least make a list of the issues about living in Australia that are of concern to you. Organise a panel of adults to listen to your opinions and to comment on the issues. Remember January 26. Think of 26 good things about Australia. Put 26 candles on an Australia Day cake. Think about what a lucky country Australia is.