The basics
Australia: Once you arrive

Celebrating Australia Day

Learn all about Australia Day which takes place at the end of January each year. What is the history behind the holiday and what activities can you expect to participate in on this day?

Australia Day

Origins of Australia Day

Australia Day is the official national holiday of Australia. It occurs every year on the 26th January and marks the arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales where the British Union Jack flag.

In 1788 the Fleet, led by Captain Arthur Phillip, arrived with the original intention to establish a colony at the previously-discovered Botany Bay. However on arriving, Phillip and his group found the area to be unsuitable and instead moved north to Port Jackson.

Previously the day has gone by the names ‘Foundation Day’ and ‘Anniversary Day’ amongst others.


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Modern meaning of Australia Day

As you might guess, Australia Day is a proud day for all Australians. On this day they celebrate their heritage and what makes their country great. It is a public holiday (i.e. schools and many workplaces are closed for the day) throughout every state and territory in Australia, so friends and families will use the opportunity to gather together to relax and socialise. There is also an emphasis placed on how Australia’s population has grown in diversity over time, so expect to see various ethnicities and backgrounds represented too.


Australia Day activities

Usually huge events will be held in Australia’s biggest cities. For instance, in Sydney, there are number of activities planned for the whole family to celebrate the day, including a midday singing of the national anthem. Fireworks and barbeques will often be a part of the festivities no matter where you are in the country.


See how Melbourne celebrated Australia Day 2014:



The Australian of the Year awards are also announced around this day (usually the day before). Each year these awards celebrate Australians who have made significant contributions to sports, culture, their local community and more. Awards include ‘Australian of the Year’, ‘Senior Australian of the Year’, ‘Young Australian of the Year’ and ‘Australia’s Local Hero’. Each territory will put forward an individual from there for each category. The results are announced at a ceremony in Canberra, which is televised and streamed for the country to watch.


What can international students do on Australia Day?

If you’re studying in Australia during Australia Day, you’ll have the day off from classes. Make the most of it and gather with your friends to celebrate the day. If you’re studying in a large city like Melbourne, Sydney or Perth, there will be a lot of different events going on – you certainly won’t be able to miss them. Alternatively if you want to stay away from the crowds you could hold a party at home (any excuse for a good ol’ Australian barbeque).

While your Australian friends will likely invite you to whatever they’re doing, you can always plan to spend the day with other international students who also don’t have anything planned. Together you can reflect on what you all have grown to love about Australia since studying there.



Read more:

‘White Night Melbourne’

‘Australian culture’

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About Author

Australia Day

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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