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Australia Day

Australia Day is Australia's official national day, January 26. It commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove on that day in 1788.

Australia Day is marked by civic celebrations around the country, including Order of Australia and Australian of the Year awards for outstanding achievement. Australia's largest fireworks display occurs on this day in the city of Perth.

There is also a national public holiday. For some years this was held on the closest Monday, to give holiday-loving Australians a long weekend. It is now held on the actual anniversary, unless 26 January happens to fall on a weekend, in which case the public holiday is still held on the following Monday.

However, Australia Day arouses indifference in some people and dislike in others. Many not from Sydney regard the day as too Sydney-centric; many Australian Aboriginals term it "Invasion Day" and regard it as celebrating their subjugation. Some have suggested making ANZAC Day Australia's national day, or changing to January 1, commemorating 1 January 1901 when Australia's six colonies federated into one nation. Each of the alternatives raised also pose problems (ANZAC Day because many war veterans believe that it is their day, also that it is also a New Zealand national holiday, while 1 January is also a public holiday in the middle of the Christmas holiday season).

However, it is unlikely to be resolved until the issue of Australian republicanism is definitively resolved - if a change to Australia's form of government occurs it has been suggested that the date of the changeover should become the national civic holiday.

A perceived problem with this proposal is that any orderly change to the constitutional system of government would almost certainly be timed to commence on either 1 January (the start of the calendar year) or 1 July (the start of the financial year) - because randomly selecting virtually any other day in the calendar on which to commence a new republic would be an administrative absurdity. However, 1 January and 1 July would stand little chance of being accepted by the populace as their new national day because they do not resonate at all with the Australian psyche. Further, 1 January is already a public holiday in Australia, and it falls during the Christmas-New Year period when any national celebrations would be rendered secondary to religious festivities. Also, 1 July is already Canada's National Day, and Australia is unlikely to want to share its national day with another major Commonwealth country unless there are significant and compelling reasons.

Many supporters of the continued use of Australia Day as Australia's national day point out that 26 January commemorates an actual historical event, similar to ANZAC Day, Bastille Day in France, and 4 July in the United States. Interestingly, this debate is accompanied by debate about Australia's other major national symbols - the Australian flag and the National Anthem 'Advance Australia Fair'. However, until suitable alternatives reveal themselves naturally, and there is widespread and sustained national support, Australia Day is almost certain to remain 26 January.