History

The First Fleet of 11 ships arrived at Port Jackson from Great Britain on January 26 1788. The fleet was led by Captain Arthur Phillip, who established the Colony of New South Wales. The first form of Australia Day celebrations occurred in 1818, when the then-Governor of Australia hosted a special dinner ball and gave government employees a holiday. In the following years, other workers were given the day off to enjoy national festivities, with regattas and horse races becoming increasingly popular Australia Day events.

By 1994, Australia Day had been declared a public holiday and has been on January 26 in all states and territories in the country. When Australia Day does not fall on a Monday, it is observed on the Monday closest to it.

Events

Sydney locals and travellers in the area can head to Olympic Park, where free festivities are held from midday until 9:00 p.m. The Australia Day 2015 program included live entertainment, food stalls and rides, plus a fireworks display to end the evening. The day started with WugulOra marking the beginning of the celebrations, raising the Aboriginal and Australian flags on the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 7:30 a.m. 

Australia Day
What's more Australian than spending the day at the beach on Australia Day?!

The 2014 Australia Day celebrations lit up Sydney with Hyde Park transformed into a 'Summer Playground', complete with television characters, the Wiggles and other free, family-friendly activities. The CBD hosted the CARnivale, where vintage, classic and veteran vehicles were showcased alongside luxury and high-performance models. What will 2016 hold? Stay tuned for more information as it comes to hand.

Melbourne is also the site of many Australia Day events. In the past it has featured sporting events, parades, music, markets and festivals. The Australia Day Flag Raising Ceremony takes place at the Melbourne Town Hall, followed by the Australia Day Parade which celebrates Melbourne's cultural diversity. There is also likely to be an Australia Day Picnic and celebrations at Docklands, where fireworks, live music and backyard activities are on offer for families.

Brisbane's Southbank Parklands puts of live music, interactive art installations and a spectacular fireworks displays. As the weather on Australia Day is typically hot, many revellers take along their cossies to swim at the inner-city man-made Streets Beach. Perth's Langley Park features an entertainment zone that has been known to put on camel and pony rides, along with a petting zoo. Here you'll also find a laser and water show, along with fireworks.