A list of commemorative dates and historical events which are significant in terms of Australia’s national identity and culture.
These are dates which are celebrated or commemorated Australia-wide (or have been in the past), or which are significant to Australia’s historical development.
This page is under construction, as there are more commemorative dates yet to be added.
26 January: Australia Day
Australia Day, the 26th of January, is the anniversary of the foundation of the British colony at Sydney, New South Wales, in 1788.
In early years it was commemorated as the First Landing day, then as Anniversary Day, then as Foundation Day. It was also known as ANA Day, due to the campaigning by the Australian Natives’ Association for the day to be celebrated as a national holiday.
Australia Day is widely celebrated every year as a commemoration of the foundation of the Australian nation.
25 April: Anzac Day
Anzac Day is held on the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) on Gallipoli peninsula, on the 25th of April 1915. The Anzacs, along with military forces from several other Allied countries, fought against the Turks (who were part of the Ottoman Empire).
Anzac Day is commemorated across Australia every year, to recognise the effort and sacrifice made by the Australian military forces, and as a show of respect for Australia’s past and present military veterans.
First Tuesday in November: The Melbourne Cup
The Melbourne Cup is the most famous horse race in Australia. It began in 1861 and has been held every year since. It is held on the first Tuesday in November. The Cup is a race for thoroughbred horses, three years old and over, with a prize pool of several million dollars.
Betting on the Melbourne Cup is widespread, with millions of dollars spent in on-track and off-track betting, along with a great part of the population participating in friendly Cup Sweeps organised amongst friends and work colleagues. Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday in Melbourne and the race is watched by many Australians across the country, being known as “the race that stops a nation”.
3 December: Battle of the Eureka Stockade
The Eureka Rebellion of 1854 occurred during the “roaring days” of the 1850s gold rushes; the rebellion came about due to the oppressive taxation levied upon miners, in the form of expensive mining licences, and because of the odious way in which searches for those without mining licences were carried out.
Several hundred miners rebelled in the Ballarat area, a stockade was erected, and the Battle of the Eureka Stockade occurred when police and troopers attacked the stockade on the 3rd of December 1854.
Melbourne juries acquitted all of the accused rebels in the subsequent Eureka trials.
The Eureka Rebellion is regarded as playing an important role in the granting of democratic liberties in Australia.
The Ashes is a cricket competition played between Australia and England. It has been an ongoing event since 1882, the year in which an Australian cricket team beat the English team at Kennington Oval.
The origin of “the Ashes” as a term comes from a humorous “obituary”, regarding the English team’s loss, placed in The Sporting Times newspaper, which mourned the death of English cricket. As a further extension on the joke, when the English cricket team came to Australia, the English team’s captain was presented with a small terracotta urn containing “The Ashes”.