Spirits are riding high once again as Australia gears up to celebrate Australia Day 2015 on January 26. The annual public holiday commemorates the day Captain Arthur Phillip first landed on Australia’s shore. It is a day to exhibit Australians’ national pride, with the Australian flag proudly flying across the entire continent. It is also a day for sporting events, family barbecues, community gatherings and various festivals, topped with firework displays.
Beyond the fanfare, it is a solemn and victorious day for most Aussies, and a grand day for others. It is a day to look back at Australia’s stormy beginnings; a day when selected Australians will receive the Order of Australia from the Australian Government, and a day when many people from other nations become Australian citizens at the Citizenship Ceremonies.
Records of the celebrations on this particular day trace its beginning in 1808 but it was only in 1818 that the official celebration was held, which coincided with the formation of New South Wales. Australia Day was adopted as the name for the annual celebration in 1935 and it became an official public holiday across the nation in 1994. It is now Australia’s biggest civic event, with each state and territory creating their own brand of celebration.
New South Wales
In New South Wales, the best place to celebrate Australia Day is at Sydney’s Darling Harbour. The line-up of activities for the whole family and a throng of visitors, both local and international, make it one zippy, heady and fun-filled day for people of all ages. Topping the annual celebration in Sydney is the WugulOra (One Mob) Ceremony, which honours the traditional owners of Australia, the Eora people. This special ceremony acknowledges and promotes the rightful place Indigenous Australians have in the country. It starts with the raising of the Aboriginal flag and the Australian flag on the Harbour Bridge, followed by a performance from the Public Schools Aboriginal Dance Company of New South Wales.
For the young and the young-at-heart, Palm Grove’s Circus Playground is the place to be, where they can learn stilt-walking, hula hooping and juggling. Learning to walk on a balance beam is another fun game to try. Instructors from Circusworks provide skilled supervision to make sure everyone is safe. Culture Beats Stage presents another set of great live performances, so you can groove to Indigenous, Tibetan and Latin sounds this year. As the sun goes down, have the perfect end to a perfect day with a twilight concert from Darren Percival, runner-up in the first season of The Voice, who will be aboard a barge in Cockle Bay, with live video links to various screens around the district.
South Australia calls their celebration as Australia Day in the City, centred in the capital, Adelaide and is presented by the Adelaide City Council. The fun begins with the annual Havaianas Thong Challenge from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM at Glenelg Beach. The fund-raising event is a challenge to form the longest line of people holding hands while standing on huge inflatable Havaianas on the water.
Australia Day in the City’s main celebration starts with Australia Day Parade at six in the evening, the largest parade ever held to celebrate the event. It is joined by thousands of participants including marching bands, vintage vehicles, horses, roving acts and huge floats and anything that makes the celebration a fun and joyous one, such as a giant echidna balloon and other huge characters. An F-18 will also do a fly past. The parade ends around 7:00 PM at Elder Park where a twilight Australia Day Concert will be headlined by some of the leading Aussie performers. This year, concert headliners are Sneaky Sound System and Brothers3, Kaurna Cronin, Kuma Karo and Jack Buckskin. Budding singers could join the National Anthem singing contest to be presented by Mix 102.3. 2015′s Australia Day in the City will also feature a 21-gun salute, a flag-raising event as well as the cutting of a huge cake just made for the special day. Afterwards, a glorious fireworks display mounted by Foti Fireworks will finally cap off this year’s celebration. Vantage points include the grassy spots along the Torrens, as the fireworks will be launched from the Torrens Riverbank Footbridge, the River Torrens and Pinky Flat.
Australia is a sporting nation and for 2015, Victoria will again hold the Rosebud Australia Day Fun Run. More than 2,000 competitors normally join the race, which consists of a 5.3k (from the Dromana Visitor Information Centre) and a 10k walk or run from the Safety Beach Yacht Club, that take participants along the gorgeous shoreline to pass some of the most fantastic views along the route. The run ends at the Rosebud Village Green where winners celebrate with the flag-raising ceremony.
From 1:00 PM until 7:00 PM, Victorians will once again gather at the Treasury Gardens for the Share the Spirit Festival. The event will turn the venue into a throbbing location, filled with music, culture and Aboriginal dances. This is one of the rare chances to enjoy beautiful Aboriginal music, showcased by Songlines Aboriginal Music, which highlights the talents of several local Aboriginal artists. In 2015, event headliners include the Kooriboree Dance Group, Edwards Philly and DJ Sadge, Band Kutcha, The Monica Weightman, The Adopted Souls and Jayden Lillyst.
Over in Queensland the Australia Day celebration covers one long weekend, starting on January 23. Most of the action will take place at the green spaces of the CBD and the South Bank Parklands with views of the Brisbane River. Queensland residents and visitors are in for another wonderful weekend with some 70 free performances by several music personalities such as Bullhorn, Kingfisha, Busby Marou, The Seed Project, Lili Kendall, Kiara Rodrigues, Bec Laughton, Tigerlilly and Alphabet Street. Maria Clearly will mount an interactive art show and Lissa and Nee Nee and the Jelly Kids, Totally Wild and Toasted TV will have performances for the children. Also to be expected are fantastic performances from the Heilani Polynesian Dancers and the Imanzi Rwandan Cultural Dance Group.
At the River Quay of South Bank Parkland is the Great Australian Bites that showcases the wonderful cuisine of Australia. Several food stalls will be put up for the weekend event, including those from some of the finest restaurants in Brisbane such as The Jetty, Popolo, Cove Bar & Dining and Aquitaine Brasserie. Try some of the local mouth-watering dishes and refreshing drinks, such as pumpkin puree, tallegio, arancini balls with tomato and Mooloolaba king prawns cooked with pork floss and chilli. Quench your thirst with a cup of Pimms or Aperol spritz. Of course, it would be better to buy several food from the stalls and put together an impromptu family picnic.
The official celebration in Western Australia will return to Sir James Mitchell Park in Perth, which will have another extensive programme to entertain all members of the family. There will be an attempt for a world-record flag waving event, free performances by Circus Joseph Ashton, water regatta and more. The Royal Flying Doctor Service will have their first airshow ever. A free concert, Make Smoking History Survival Day Concert, will feature Geoffrey ‘Gurrumul’ Yunupingu, Philip Walley-Stack, The Dulcitones, The Merindas and Yabu.
The capital city of Perth in Western Australia is not to be outdone when it comes to celebrating Australia Day. This year the city once again mounts the City of Perth Skyworks over the Swan River, which commences at 8:00 PM. The fireworks display, which is the highlight of the celebration, combines not only the glitter and sparkle of the myriad of colours from bursting fireworks, but also the explosive music that will set off both the fireworks display and the fantastic laser show.
In the Northern Territory, the town of Tennant Creek starts Australia Day celebration with a flag raising ceremony and the community singing of the National Anthem, followed by a healthy Outback Aussie-style breakfast at Tennant Creek. After breakfast are various events, starting off with some Aussie sports like thong throwing competitions, sack races and egg throwing contests. Feel the rush of adrenaline as you watch the raft racing on the Tingkkarli (Lake Mary Ann).
Enjoy some other Aussie outdoor activities as the Australia Day Barkly Triathlon in and around the Tingkkarli before everyone partakes of a hearty barbecue. Between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM Oz Fusion will have a showcase at the Cyprus Community Centre to once again celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity with various food and performances. Audience participation is a must in this showcase.
Like the rest of the country there are so many activities happening in each state and territory, with various smaller events in several districts. In St Helens, Tasmania, Australia Day Ambassador Melanie Irons will grace the Australia Day Awards at 10:00 AM. From 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, there are free concerts headlined by Peter Cornelius and the DeVilles. There will be food and beverage showcase and entertainment for the whole family including face painting, balloons, live music, street tea party, water sports, fun races, giant inflatable castle slides and pony rides.
With Tasmania surrounded by water, Australia Day celebration here includes A Day on the Beach, which showcases the lifestyle of Australia. The venue is Kingston Beach. It’s an event that encompasses so many things that Aussies enjoy doing and more. There’s a beachside breakfast, swimming, sailing, sandcastle competition, Big Aussie BBQs and other outdoor activities. The celebration focuses on community participation, where everyone is encouraged to showcase their skills and talents.