Australia Day - History
The quest for the celebration of a united Australian Day and the parallel search for an 'Australian identity' and sense of spirit commenced within a few short years of the First Fleet landing of 1788 and subsequent white settlement on this island continent.

The following information gives a chronological history of how settlers and Indigenous Australians have acknowledged, celebrated and mourned the 26th January since 1788.

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. Australia Day today celebrates diversity and tolerance in Australian society. Whereas once it celebrated the staunchly British nature of Australian society (or was disparaged for this approach), it now embraces multicultural Australia, including all ethnic backgrounds, racial differences and political viewpoints.

1788 to 1888

26 January 1788 saw Captain Arthur Phillip take ‘formal possession’ of the Colony of New South Wales. Phillip also became Governor of the colony, which was founded on the harsh grounds at Port Jackson. Slowly, a modern British society, very much based on the distinctions between convicts and settlers, developed.

The fledgling colony very soon began to mark the anniversary of 26 January 1788 with formal dinners and informal celebrations. Manning Clark notes that on 26 January 1808, the 'anniversary of the foundation of the colony' was observed in the traditional manner with 'drinking and merriment'. John Macarthur senior had ensured his soldiers were amply supplied with liquor, bonfires were blazing and private houses illuminated.

By 1820, Australia was beginning to look prosperous and sentiments of Australian patriotism were being expressed at gatherings of ex-convicts. The sense of belonging to a new nation must have been encouraged in 1817 when Governor Macquarie recommended the adoption of the name 'Australia' for the entire continent instead of New Holland.

An article in the Sydney Gazette on February 1, 1817 records a typical anniversary dinner that was held on the 27 January in the house of Isaac Nichols, a respected emancipist and Australia's first Postmaster. Similar dinners are described involving William Charles Wentworth and friends on 26 January 1825 and 1828. A catchcry and traditional toast was born: 'to the land, boys, we live in'. The first stirrings of a kind of patriotism were being felt: Australian identity would evolve over two centuries (and continues to evolve). The colony was a small society of cliques, extreme social judgement, rigid class-lines, gossip and ambition. The feeling of isolation was, in some cases, viewed as an advantage. Australians of European descent began to see themselves as unique
The first official celebrations were held in 1818, marking the thirtieth anniversary of white settlement. The colony was firmly British and Imperial. In a show of imperial strength meant to dazzle the inhabitants, Governor Macquarie ordered a salute of 30 guns to be fired from the battery at Dawes Point and in the evening gave a dinner at Government House for civil and military officers. Mrs Macquarie hosted the ball which followed.

Throughout the early nineteenth century, Foundation Day, as it was then known, became known for sporting events. But the growing sense of patriotism was being expressed in other ways. Charles Tompson, reputed to be our first Australian-born poet and the son of a transportee, was moved to compose eight stanzas of tribute to his native country for 26 January 1824 collected in his "Wild Notes from the Lyre of a Native Minstrel" and entitled "A Song, for January 26, 1824: being the XXXVI anniversary of the colonization of New South Wales". Tompson identified Australia in its landscape, but also had Neptune, the king of the seas, predict Australia becoming

'The brightest gem in Albion's crown
While the prolific bosom pours Earth's richest gifts in lavish showers'

Australia Day, or Foundation Day, as it was then known was described in the stirring last stanza:

This is the joy-inspiring day
That gave these blessings to our lot
Then let us share the social rites
Join hands, all malice be forgot!
This little star, once marked by none
Now shines a bright - a BLAZING SUN!

Charles Tompson was undoubtedly one of that section of the Australian-born whom Edward Smith Hall, proprietor and publisher of The Monitor, had in mind when he wrote in 1821 'the circumstances of the parents of the most of them having come to the country in bondage, so far from making them humble, causes them to be the proudest people in the world … the circumstance of being free is felt by them with a strength bordering on fierce enthusiasm'.

A different commemorative event was held in the summer of 1836 when a group of seafaring Sydney friends decided to celebrate the founding of their new nation with a sailing regatta. The Australia Day Regatta, originally the Anniversary Regatta, is still held on Sydney Harbour on 26 January each year and has become the oldest continuous regatta in the world. Not only symbolic of Australian affinity of the water, the regatta has been a popular and well-attended event throughout the year.

Fifty years after Phillip landed, in 1838, a number of celebratory events were organised and the first public holiday ever marked in Australia was announced for 26 January in that year. This marked the beginning of a tradition which has lasted to the present, an annual public holiday on or around 26 January. A less common tradition which it also started was the marking of significant anniversaries. The centennial, sesquicentennial and bicentennial celebrations outdid each other in patriotic splendour and celebration.

Heralding the Australia Day in the present, in distinct contrast to the mainly private and somewhat elitist anniversary dinners in previous years, 26 January 1838, the fiftieth anniversary of the landing, became a 'day for everyone' with the harbour foreshores crowded and many sailing vessels participating in races and competitions. Crackers and rockets ended the day's exuberant festivities.

By the centenary of Phillip's landing in 1888, Australia's population numbered almost three million and many changes had taken place over the previous fifty years. Gold had been discovered in the 1850s bringing great wealth and immigration, and New South Wales had become self-governing in 1854.

While this wealth and prosperity was certainly not equally spread - the incoming NSW government of 1886 had inherited severe financial problems and over eleven thousand 'centennial parcels' of rations were distributed to Sydney's poor on 26 January 1888 - the first centenary of white settlement was celebrated with great enthusiasm.

With the exception of Adelaide, all colonial capitals had declared Anniversary Day 1888 a public holiday and celebrations took place throughout the colonies. Ceremonies, parades, exhibitions, fireworks, banquets, church services and regattas were commonplace and 50,000 people watched the Governor Lord Carrington unveil a statue in honour of Queen Victoria. A march of thirteen thousand trade unionists culminated in the laying of the foundation stone for a new Trades Hall and many religious services were held.

Centennial Park, Sydney was formally reserved for public use on 26 January 1888. In Melbourne there was a Centennial International Exhibition which remained open from August 1888 to February 1889, attracting nearly two million visitors. The centenary was also marked by numerous historical publications and commemorative volumes as well as souvenirs and other centenary ephemera.

Australians were beginning to talk widely about other political questions of the day, including the move towards Federation. However, despite the pride in achievement celebrated in January 1888 and the moves towards a united nation, there were no doubts about the 'continuing loyalty of the four million Australians to the mother country'. A description of the unveiling of Queen Victoria's statue included the comment 'the mood was British, the crowd was Australian'.

1889 to 1938
In 1871 the Australian Natives' Association had been formed in Victoria. This was the first Australian Friendly Society and its motto was Advance Australia. The group, which had particular influence in the period between the 1890s to around 1914, had strong nationalistic aspirations and its members included Edmund Barton (to become our first Prime Minister), Alfred Deakin (Australia's second Prime Minister) and Sir Isaac Isaacs (our first Australian-born Governor-General). The ANA provided sickness, medical and funeral cover. Its membership was limited to native-born men, but it threw off the secrecy and ritual of British friendly societies.

The ANA grew rapidly and branches were formed across Victoria and in all states as well as a branch in London. By the 1880s, the group was making a nation-wide impact. The Australian Natives' Association supported many issues including afforestation, an Australian-made goods policy, water conservation, Aboriginal welfare, the celebration of proper and meaningful citizenship ceremonies following the increased levels of migration after World War II and the adoption of the wattle as the national floral emblem in 1912. However, some of their strongest support was lent to the move towards Federation and a united Commonwealth (along with the Federation League), the celebration of a unified national day and the calling of that day Australia Day.

In Victoria, ANA Day was celebrated on the 26 January, but not all sections of the community approved. The conservative Australian Natives Association did not initially get universal support. In New South Wales, the Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Moran, suggested Australia Day as an alternative to Empire Day. W A Holman, Premier of New South Wales, agreed with the idea. The Worker newspaper, organ of much trade unionism in New South Wales, vehemently disagreed with any form of celebration on 26 January. On Australia Day 1911, it stated that while it had a deep regard for the past, the landing of Phillip was not worth celebrating. Rather, the election of the Labor Party in 1910 (the first elected Labor Government in Australian history) was a far more commendable achievement. The Worker concluded,

'What of the future? A thousand barriers to progress have been swept from our path; a thousand still remain. The work is not completed; it is in fact only beginning. As those men in 1788 claimed Australia in the name of England, we in 1911 claim the land in the name of Labor. Let the British tie remain … Labor works to a practical goal and her great concern is the well-being of the whole people. As the early settlers faced a wilderness of forest and plain, we, their sons, are called upon to face a wilderness of traditional evils and deeply-rooted wrongs. Our work is different in nature, but the spirit in which it must be performed is the same. Let us see to it that the second century marks as great an advance as the first…'

Preparations for the 150th anniversary of white settlement in 1938 had commenced in NSW in 1936 with the formation of a Celebrations Council and the Sesquicentenary year became an important year for celebrations. NSW was the only state to abandon the traditional long weekend and the annual Anniversary Day public holiday was held on the day - Wednesday 26 January.

The general public appeared to have embraced the 150th anniversary with great enthusiasm. In Sydney, events commenced on 18 January with a ceremony to celebrate the arrival of Captain Phillip at Botany Bay. A similar ceremony was held on the 21 January at Camp Cove. Both were attended by the Governor Lord Wakehurst, the Premier Bertram Stevens, military chiefs and assorted dignitaries. 26 January 1938 in NSW featured many major events around the state and in Sydney on and around the Harbour. The 'March of Nationhood', an extremely successful parade of over sixty motorised floats passed through the streets of Sydney to the Showground watched by almost one million people. Streets and buildings were decorated and the city was alive with colour and excitement, decorated with bunting, flags and illuminations.

The 1938 sesquicentenary celebrations focused on white middle-class British Australia. A re-enactment of Philip's landing was performed. The script showed the attitudes held by many at the time. The only part Aborigines were to play in the re-enactment was a corroboree at the beginning. Showing typical insensitivity to the varying cultures of Aboriginality, the Aborigines were imported from Western New South Wales. No reason for not using local Aborigines has survived. The script showed no contact between Aboriginal the British culture. Their purely symbolic role ended with the arrival of the British. 26 January 1788 was given an esoteric or mystical significance. A crewman states, "I won't forget this day: seems to fill a gap in my knowledge." The crewman is unaware of what exactly has happened, but it is highly significant. It is later revealed that a 'sprig of Empire' had been planted in this strange new land. Australia was hence part of a growing organism - the British Empire. Though the ordinary seamen know something special has happened (even if they don't know exactly what it is) and Philip's officers are dubious, the wisdom of Philip's choice is justified, as the 1938 celebrations attest. Convicts are not represented at all. As Paul Ashton writes in his book Waving the Waratah, considerable public criticism and the resignation of two committee members had followed the decision by the Celebrations Council to 'sanitise the historical components of the celebration' and to rewrite history for 'mass consumption'. Even the conservative Sydney Morning Herald felt that convicts could have been represented 'without making them unduly conspicuous'. The settlement at Port Jackson is British, respectable, middle-class and white. Not all, however, believed this view of Australia.

Several hours before the re-enactment on the morning of 26 January, Aboriginal activists met to hold a 'Day of Mourning' conference aimed at securing national citizenship and equal status for Aborigines. A manifesto titled Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights was distributed by the committee formed to organise the protest and soon after Australia Day 1938 the Committee for Aboriginal Citizen Rights was formed in Sydney.

Outside Sydney, there were many celebrations and events in the bush for the Sesquicentenary - picnics, balls, musical performances and the odd fireworks show. A significant amount of ephemera remains from the celebrations - invitations, pamphlets, program brochures, tourist leaflets from large regional towns and musical, art and literary competitions, indicating the number of events that took place around New South Wales. However, in both city and country, unlike the 1988 Bicentenary, little in the way of permanent structures and reminders were created during 1938. Nevertheless, the euphoria of the 150th anniversary celebrations was maintained as February 1938 saw the staging of the British Empire Games in Australia for the first time. Of the seventy events held in Sydney, Australia won twenty-four, far ahead of her nearest rival Canada with thirteen.

1939 to 1988
The Second World War shifted the focus of Australians from Australia Day to the more sombre ANZAC day. In the years leading up to war, and even during the war, the Australian Natives Association had been working patiently towards the unified naming and dating of our national day. In 1946, following their concerted efforts and with the support of similar movements, the Commonwealth Government and all States and Territories finally agreed to observe the same national day - 26 January - and to call that day Australia Day.

Separate Australian citizenship became law in 1949. The waves of non-British immigration after 1945 led to a new role for Australia Day, one that celebrated new citizenship with 'naturalisation' ceremonies. Arthur Calwell, first Minister for Immigration, had allowed immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean into Australia, unwillingly and unknowingly starting the first small steps to a fully multicultural Australia.

In 1963, the Australia and New Zealand Weekly reported ‘4,500 'New Australians' will become fully-fledged Australian citizens'. Citizenship ceremonies are still an integral part of Australia Day celebrations around the nation with the smallest town or rural village delighted if they can host a ceremony for even one new Australian citizen on 26 January.

The public holiday mentality of the average Australian for 26 January was deplored by many commentators. In 1957 the Editor of The Educational Magazine, published by the Victorian Education Department, writes that 'the celebration of Australia Day, or the comparative lack of it, has always caused embarrassment both to those who would like to celebrate and those who would chiefly like to see that others do'.

Meanwhile, existing celebrations for Australia Day continued to have a largely imperial feel and influence and were quite formal. The Australia and New Zealand Weekly described 26 January, 1959 in Sydney as a march of 12,000 men, women and children through the city to the Botanic Gardens, led by the NSW Mounted Police, the armed services and sporting personalities. The NSW Governor and Premier were in attendance for the ceremony which included a re-enactment of the First Fleet landing.

The Sydney celebrations from 1959 to around 1971 were conducted by a group called the Sydney Committee which also organised the annual Waratah Festival - a far more expansive affair than Australia Day. Australia Day ceremonies were typically formal, with a strong military involvement and the presence of numerous dignitaries including the Governor, Premier, Lord Mayor and Service Chiefs. A positive aspect was the Committee's determination to conduct their events on 26 January, regardless of the day in the week on which it fell.

The first Australian of the Year, an award given out on Australia Day, was bestowed on Macfarlane Burnet in 1960. Professor Burnet had won the Nobel Prize that year for his groundbreaking physics research. Later recipients of the Australian of the Year were to come from many backgrounds, though the earliest winners seemed to be expatriates and recognised overseas. Later winners were less internationally prominent, but of immense service to the Australian community.

Throughout the sixties, there was scepticism about Australia Day. Professor Ken Inglis wrote in 1967 that it was a 'contrived and unpopular ceremony' which was 'followed by popular enjoyment'. Yet even Professor Inglis saw the need for such a day, as he hoped it might become a day where professional historians and amateur historians may meet, and celebrate Australia's past.

In the 1970s, Australian citizenship was redefined with the concept of multiculturalism. The Whitlam Labor Government adopted this policy to break the hold of the old White Australia Policy, which limited the countries and circumstances from which potential migrants could come to Australia. This broader approach to citizenship has made Australia Day the focus of new citizenship. As in the past, Australia Day was used as the focus for citizenship drives. Rather than defining citizenship, now Australia Day was to attract new citizens. The traditional sources of migration - Europe (particularly England) and other Commonwealth countries - were taken over by migrants from Asia and the Middle East. The Minister for Immigration in the Whitlam Government, Al Grassby, used Australia Day to exhort migrants to become citizens. On Australia Day 1974, he called on everyone to 'celebrate it by making someone who is not yet an Australian citizen feel a member of the family of the Australian nation. Help them to become a citizen.' A coupon was placed in major national newspapers on the day which stated proudly, 'Belong to Australia - as a citizen', which Australian citizens were meant to give to non-citizens living here.

The Fraser government continued the citizenship policies of the Whitlam Government, despite opposition from its own supporters. On Australia Day, 1976, Malcolm Fraser triumphantly told a packed Melbourne Myer Bowl that the days of Anglo-Celtic dominance in Australia were over. The largely Italian-descended crowd went wild.

From 1977 to 1986 the official NSW Australia Day ceremony was conducted by the Festival of Sydney, from 1982 on behalf of the Australia Day Council of NSW. Pre-1988, all ceremonies were principally based on the historical significance of 26 January and involved a Tri-service Guard, the reading of Captain Phillip's 1788 Proclamation and the raising of the original Union flag as well as the Australian flag. In 1979 the National Australia Day Council was formed. State councils or committees followed, the Australia Day Council of NSW being formed in 1981. From its inception, the NSW council encouraged 'grass roots' celebrations, working primarily with the 177 local government authorities in the promotion of the celebration of Australia Day. However, the Australia Day public holiday was still held on the Monday closest to 26 January and to the broad community it was just another holiday.

By 26 January 1988, the community was really ready to fulfil the NSW Bicentennial Council's logo 'Let's Celebrate' and the world saw a 'spirited and emotional country' as Australians enjoyed the spectacular events on and around Sydney Harbour and across the country. In NSW alone, over 25,000 events took place and an estimated 2.5 million people attended the celebrations in Sydney. And in 1988, for the first time, a public holiday was held around the nation on January 26 January. In Sydney the ships of the First Fleet Re-enactment arrived in Sydney Harbour. These ships had departed Portsmouth on the 13 May 1987, arriving in Botany Bay earlier in January and then finally entering the heads on the morning of 26 January 1988. On the same day the sail training ship the Young Endeavour became Britain's Bicentennial gift to the nation and Sydney Harbour was also host to a large number of Tall Ships from many nations.

Pre-1988, re-enactments of the 1788 landing were almost a prerequisite for any Australia Day ceremonies. In 1988 however, while the First Fleet ships staged a re-enactment of the voyage and subsequent arrival of the original First Fleet in Sydney Harbour, the NSW government reacted strongly against the suggestion of a landing re-enactment, stating they would 'ensure that such a completely insensitive and politically volatile act did not take place'. An advertisement was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald acknowledging the arrival of the First Fleet had led to the "destruction of Aboriginal society." The ad, signed by the organiser, Dr. Jonathan King, also stated, "The way in which Aboriginal society has been disregarded and almost destroyed since the arrival of Captain Phillip's fleet must now be recognised. Their needs must be acknowledged, their protests must be heeded."

Alongside the formal program celebrating 200 years of white settlement, the Aboriginal community staged a massive march for 'Freedom, Justice and Hope' in Sydney. It was estimated 15000 people attended the march and subsequent rally. The five-kilometre march began with a mourning corroboree. White supporters were asked to join the march halfway. The protests organiser, the Reverend Charles Harris, called for a national conference to examine ways of increasing Aboriginal democracy. Reverend Harris suggested people like Justice Michael Kirby be involved. While 1988 was named a Year of Mourning for Aboriginals, it was also regarded as a celebration of survival. This was the most vocal indigenous presence ever felt on a 26 January.

As well as the festive and fun events, the 1988 Bicentennial, unlike earlier major celebrations in NSW, will be remembered for leaving a substantial number of very diverse and useful projects. Funded by a grant system from the NSW Bicentennial Council, these projects played a significant role in the participation of regional communities.

1989 to Present
After the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations, the expectation was that the Australian public would not continue to observe Australia Day in such style and with such import. Despite this lack of optimism, each year since 1988 Australia Day celebrations across the country have continued to grow in number and stature and ceremonies have become increasingly appealing to a broad community audience.

In 1993, the Australia Day celebrations were closely linked to Sydney's bid for the 2000 Olympics and in 1994 the devastating January bushfires were very much a current issue. In that year, the official Australia Day ceremony at Darling Harbour honoured representatives from all the relevant bushfire brigade regions throughout New South Wales allowing Australians to say 'thank you' to their firefighting heroes.

There still remained separate dates for Australia Day celebrations in some states. This was despite the increase in community involvement, the fact that all States and Territories had recognised the day from 1946 and that Bicentennial celebrations took place around the country on the same day, 26 January 1988. It took until 1994 for united Australia-wide celebrations to take place on 26 January and national celebrations have been held on the actual day since that year.

While 26 January has remained our national day from the time of Phillip's landing, much discussion has taken place since the 1800s on the pros and cons of this particular date. The reasons cited for a change of date have been varied - historical, practical and most recently, the desire for reconciliation with our indigenous population. At the time of writing, the date remains 26 January and the discussion continues.

Nationally, Australia Day celebrations are growing each year. In 1996, an estimated 6.5 million Australians participated in Australia Day activities and recent polls show an overwhelming proportion of Australians now view the celebration of our national day as a significant and important event. In 2002, 7 million people participated in Australia Day. Australia Day marks both the past and the future of Australia. Direct celebrations of the past have subsided. There are fewer re-enactments of Phillip's landing. In 2002, The Daily Telegraph stated, "Australia Day has evolved into a much more important day than it used to be.

Australia Day has become a community day. There are still formal ceremonies throughout the country - flag raising, citizenship ceremonies and the presentation of important community awards such as Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year, but 26 January has become much more for the average Australian. Celebrations now include a strong festive aspect with special events encouraging the participation of the entire family and all members of a community. Australia Day Committees involve their ethnic and indigenous communities, service clubs, sporting and cultural organisations while local government has become increasingly supportive. Theatrical performances, music, sporting events, speech days, multicultural and indigenous performances are all a major part of Australia Day. It has been a great innovation that people and communities get together with government bodies to make it a specific celebration." There is a greater awareness of the need to celebrate modern Australia - a land of diverse ethnic makeup, a country working towards reconciliation with its indigenous people and a nation gearing itself for the challenges of globalisation, the removal of previously safe assumptions regarding national identity, and the uncertainties of a new century. Australia Day is the centre of an evolving nation.


Captain Arthur Phillip unfurls the British flag at Sydney Cove and proclaims British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia
First recorded celebrations on 26 January
Governor Macquarie recommends the adoption of the name Australia for the entire continent, replacing New Holland
Governor Macquarie holds the first official celebrations on 26 January, marking thirty years of white settlement
First Anniversary Regatta held on Sydney Harbour. This is now the Australia Day Regatta, the oldest continuous sailing regatta in the world
Celebrations held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Phillip's landing and the commencement of the traditional Australia Day public holiday in New South Wales
Australian Natives Association formed. Instrumental in supporting issues such as Federation, the naming of our national day as Australia Day and citizenship ceremonies following WWI
Centenary celebrations for Anniversary Day across the nation Centennial Park permanently reserved for public use
January 1, Federation of the Commonwealth of Australia
Australia Day adopted in Victoria
Australia Day adopted in NSW only to be reversed to Anniversary Day by the incoming state government
Commonwealth Government and all States and Territories except NSW adopt Australia Day as the official title for our national day
150th Anniversary celebrations across the nation
All States and Territories celebrate the 26 January as Australia Day
Separate Australian citizenship became law for the first time Citizenship ceremonies began to become part of Australia Day celebrations
Sir Macfarlane Burnet the first Australian of the Year
Lionel Rose becomes the first Aboriginal Australian of the Year
26 January the Aboriginal Tent Embassy established on the lawns of Parliament House, Canberra
National Australia Day Council formed, incorporated in 1990

Australia Day Council of NSW formed, initially operating as part of the NSW Bicentennial Council

Bicentennial celebrations and for the first time a united public holiday on the 26 January across the nation Modern Tall Ships and First Fleet Re-enactment arrive in Australia. Largest Aboriginal protest march in history on 26 January

Inaugural Survival concert held at La Perouse, now an annual event

All States and Territories begin to celebrate Australia Day on the actual day - the 26 January - for the first time

Over 6.5 million Australians celebrate Australia Day nationally

Centenary of Federation celebrated. Though the date was January 1st, many communities combined Australia Day and Centenary of Federation celebrations.

Over 7 million people celebrate Australia Day nationally.

7.5 million people attend Australia Day ceremonies nationally. This figure is unlikely to fall.




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The choice of the 26 January as the day of celebration for all Australians has been queried and argued from a historical and practical viewpoint from the 1800's. That the day might symbolise invasion, dispossession and death to many Aboriginal people was a concept alien to the average Australian until even the latter half of this century. The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 January 1995, arguing for a change of date, stated that January 26 'can never be a truly national day for it symbolises to many Aborigines the date they were conquered and their lands occupied. This divisive aspect to 26 January, the commemoration of the landing at Sydney Cove will never be reconciled'.

Involvement of the Indigenous community on Australia Day has taken many forms - forced participation in re-enactments, mourning for Invasion Day, peaceful protest through to an acknowledgment of survival and an increasing participation in community events at a local level.

By 1888, the year of the centenary celebrations, the white population had increased significantly while the Aboriginal population had declined from at least 750,000 in 1788 to a mere estimated 67,000. (Aboriginal people were not counted in the census until after 1967, though they paid taxes, with an extra levy for Aboriginal ‘improvement’). The 1888 centenary events overwhelmingly celebrated British and Australian achievement and as Nigel Parbury writes in his book Survival: 'In 1888 Aboriginals boycotted the Centenary celebrations. Nobody noticed'.

By 1938, the Aboriginal community was becoming well organised and able to make strong demands for political rights and equality. An Australian Aborigines League had been formed in 1932 and this was followed in 1937 by the Aborigines Progressive Association, a group that began to achieve publicity in the press and addressed a variety of groups such as the NSW Labor Council.

The AAL leader William Cooper and the APA's leader William Ferguson, were instrumental in organising the Day of Mourning Committee for the 1938 Sesquicentenary celebrations. A manifesto, Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights, was published and on Australia Day a conference and protest were held in the Australian Hall, Sydney. Five days later, the APA led an Aboriginal delegation to meet with the Prime Minister and soon after Australia Day, the Committee for Aboriginal Citizen Rights was formed.

The Aboriginal community's push for recognition was highlighted by the 1938 official Australia Day celebrations. Due to a refusal to cooperate from city-based Aborigines, the government imported Aborigines from western communities, locking them up in a stable at Redfern Police Barracks. Immediately following the re-enactment, the group featured on a float in the huge parade in Macquarie Street. The following day they were 'sent back to their tin sheds on the Darling River'.

Re-enactments of Phillip's landing continued to be an accepted part of Australia Day ceremonies around the country and it wasn't until the Bicentennial in 1988 that the New South Wales government refused to condone a re-enactment as part of their official proceedings.

In 1968, the National Australia Day Council announced the first Aboriginal recipient of its Australian of the Year Award - boxer Lionel Rose.

Other Indigenous award recipients since then have included more sporting personalities - Evonne Goolagong in 1971, Mark Ella (1982), Cathy Freeman (1990) and Nova Peris-Kneebone (1997) becoming Young Australian of the Year while two members of the Yunupingu family, Galarrwuy (1978) and Mandawuy (1992) and later Dr. Lowitja O'Donoghue AM, CBE (1994) all were recipients of the award, Australian of the Year, for their work as leaders of the Aboriginal community. In 1995, the recipient of the inaugural National Australia Day Council's Community of the Year Award was the Jawoyn Association, recognising a decade of achievement by the traditional owners of the Katherine region in the Northern Territory.

Australia Day 1972 was marked by Prime Minister William McMahon's announcement of his government's Aboriginal policy, against the advice of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs. The frustration within the Aboriginal community found expression on the afternoon of Australia Day 1972 when a tent appeared on the lawns in front of Parliament House -to become known as the Aboriginal 'Tent' Embassy - The Aboriginal black, red and yellow flag designed by Luritja artist Harold Thomas was to become a national symbol.

The 1988 Bicentenary Australia Day celebrations in Sydney were marked by a huge and well-organised gathering and protest march by the Aboriginal community, many of whom had travelled to Sydney from all over the country.
Significant numbers of the ethnic and white communities joined the gathered Aboriginals to create a crowd of around 40,000 people who marched from Redfern Oval to Hyde Park for a public rally. Here, Aboriginal activist Gary Foley was pleased to see 'black and white Australians together in harmony...... 'this is what we have always said Australia could be'.

Many Aborigines who took part in the Bicentennial marches felt they would like to have an alternative celebration of how their history and culture had survived. The first Survival concert, held in 1992, really began from those early concepts and reflected a major shift away from the traditionally-named Australia Day to Invasion Day for the 26 January.

The Survival Concerts, now one of the biggest Aboriginal cultural events of the year, have been entirely initiated and coordinated by the Aboriginal community. La Perouse hosted the concerts for many years. This, the first place of European contact, has also had continuous Aboriginal occupation since 1788 (and for thousands of years before) and played a crucial role in the coming together of the Aboriginal community for the huge 1988 March.

Regionally across New South Wales, an increasing number of Indigenous communities are participating in their local Australia Day ceremonies. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag is often raised alongside the Australian flag and high profile Aborigines take the role of key-note speakers and Australia Day Ambassadors for the Australia Day Council as well as local Australia Day Committees. Australia Day may well become a focus of reconciliation and inclusion for indigenous Australians.