The tradition of having Australia Day as a national holiday on 26 January is a recent one. Not until 1935 did all the Australian states and territories use that name to mark that date. Not until 1994 did they begin to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on that date.

What drew Australians together in this way? Did Australia Day become a day for all Australians to enjoy?

Celebrating Australia: A History of Australia Day is an essay commissioned by the National Australia Day Council. Completed in 2007, it was researched and written by historian Dr Elizabeth Kwan. Explore its sections below or download the PDF (includes references).


1838: The Jubilee

1888: The Centenary

1901: Federation

1938: The Sesquicentenary and The Day of Mourning

1988: The Bicentenary

Australia Day, 26 January: A day for all Australians?


About the author:

Dr Elizabeth Kwan has written and lectured widely on Australians' transition in identity, from British to Australian, with particular attention to national flags: the Union Jack, and since 1954, the Australian national flag.

Her book, Flag and Nation: Australians and Their National Flags since 1901 (UNSW Press, 2006), explains Australians' changing relationship to those flags and the politics of patriotism which shaped it.

Formerly a senior lecturer in History and Australian Studies at the University of South Australia and a senior researcher in the Department of the Senate, Parliament House, Canberra, she currently works as a historian in Darwin.