Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Australia Day!

Friday, for those of here in the United States, where I sit typing this, it will be Australia Day, but, the Aussies, especially my friends in the Sydney area, start out 16 hours ahead of us this time of year, and will begin their celebrations of this national holiday Thursday morning at 8:00 AM EST. Here's the Wikipedia entry about the occasion:

26 January 1788 was the date on which the First Fleet, under Captain Arthur Phillip arrived at Sydney Cove and set up the Colony of New South Wales. Formal possession, including the reading of Phillip's Commission, took place on 7 February.

By 1808, the day that the Rum Corps arrested Governor Bligh, it was being celebrated as 'First Landing' or 'Foundation Day'. In 1818 (the 30th anniversary) Governor Macquarie had a 30-gun salute at Dawes Point and gave government workers a holiday - a tradition that was soon followed by banks and other public offices.

In 1888 all colonial capitals (with the exception of Adelaide) celebrated 'Anniversary Day' and by 1935 all states of Australia were celebrating January 26 as Australia Day (although it was still known as Anniversary Day in NSW).

The 1938 sesquicentenary (150th anniversary) of British settlement in New South Wales in 1788 was widely celebrated. Preparations began in 1936 with the formation of a Celebrations Council. In that year, NSW was the only state to abandon the traditional long weekend and the annual Anniversary Day public holiday was held on the actual anniversary day - Wednesday 26 January.

In 1946 the Commonwealth and State governments agreed to unify the celebrations on 26 January as 'Australia Day', although the public holiday was instead taken on the Monday closest to 26 January.

Since 1994 all states and territories have taken the Australia Day public holiday on 26 January.

I had the pleasure of celebrating Australia Day 2005 at the source as part of my three-week sojourn to the suburb of North Ryde as part of a wage-slavery training/hiring assignment. North Ryde is located about a half-hour west of Sydney, and the pleasure of being outdoors on Circular Quay in Sydney Harbor with temps hitting close to 90 (32-33 Celsius) was amazing.

The harbor, already a place teeming with activity, was a mass of humanity and activity as the many boat shows and activities of retelling the story of the original landing took place. The only other activity of its kind to which I can compare it was when the Tall Ships event came to Boston Harbor years ago.

Anyway, to all the friends I met Down Under, have a terrific Australia Day, and be assured that I will be back amongst you as soon as I can manage it!

Australia Day History

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