Australia Day, 26 January is the day that the nation celebrates all things Australian - the land, lifestyle, freedoms we enjoy, the diversity of the people and their achievements. It is also a time to reflect on the history of Australia and what it means to be Australian.
Although it wasn't until 1994 that 26 January was declared a national public holiday to celebrate Australia Day as a nation, 26 January is an important day in Australia's history.
26 January 1788 marks the day on which Captain Arthur Philip of the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove, established the colony of New South Wales and the British settlement began.
In the early 1800s, the anniversary of the first landing was celebrated largely in New South Wales by emancipated convicts, and was widely regarded as a holiday. Even though each colony celebrated their own establishment anniversaries, by the late 1800s, the 26 January celebrations began being celebrated Australia wide, and became known as 'Anniversary Day' or 'Foundation Day'.
The 26 January celebrations became known as 'Australia Day' after Federation in 1901 and following the push by the Australian Natives' Association, Australia Day began being celebrated on a Monday, making a long weekend in the 1930's. Over 50 years later, in 1988, the states and territories agreed to celebrate Australia Day on 26 January.
Today, Australia Day is a significant day which holds different meanings for different people.
For many Aboriginal peoples, the First Peoples and the traditional custodians of Australia, 26 January is not a day to be celebrated. Some consider it a day of mourning, as it commemorates the loss of their sovereign rights to the land, the loss of right to practice their culture and the loss of family. As such, there has been increasing debate and push to celebrate Australia Day on a different day.
As we participate in the upcoming Australia Day celebrations at the beach, a BBQ, playing backyard cricket, or by celebrating with new Australians as they become Australian citizens on Australia Day, we should take the time to reflect on what it means to be Australian and how we as Australians continue to build a future that all Australians will be proud of.