Australia Day

Today is Australia Day and it is worthy of comment in my humble opinion. The following exert is but a mild version of feelings that run passionate and deep about this day.

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National Public Holiday

Among Australian public holidays, Australia Day is considered one of the most important as it commemorates the founding of the first white settlement in Australia in 1788.

On May 13, 1787, British Captain Arthur Phillip set sail from Portsmouth, England, to establish a convict colony in Australia.

He sailed with 11 ships, 759 convicts—191 of whom were female—13 children of convicts, 211 marines, 46 wives and children of marines, and his staff of nine.

Phillip landed at Botany Bay on the eastern coast of Australia on January 18, 1788, travelled some kilometres north to find a more suitable place for settlement and came ashore at Sydney Cove on January 26 in what is now the historic Rocks area at the southern end of today’s Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sore point for Aborigines

Having established Port Jackson, he then named the settlement Sydney after British Home Secretary Lord Sydney, who was responsible for the colony. Phillip was to be its governor.

This date—January 26—is now commemorated yearly as Australia Day, but while it is a day that weaves together the past and present of a great land and its people, its celebration is a sore point for some of Australia’s Aboriginal community who consider they were invaded by the British on that day in 1788.

Day of Reconciliation?

It is believed that the first Aborigines started arriving in Australia in 50,000 BC, and the arrival of the British more than 51,000 years later was clearly an invasion of their land.

And yet, there are those Australians who consider and accept Australia Day as a day of possible reconciliation between those people who were here in the Dreamtime and those who came later….

Still there are calls for a change in the date of Australia Day.

How far the country has come

Today, around Sydney Cove stand the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the hub of bus, rail and harbour transport that is Circular Quay, and the historic Rocks area where Governor Phillip’s first settlement had its roots. A stone’s throw away is Darling Harbour, now a major tourist site, with its Sydney Powerhouse and National Maritime Museums, paved promenade areas, gardens, and shopping and entertainment precincts. One only has to look at Sydney today to see how far the country has come.

Modern Australia’s birthplace, this is where Australia Day has its focus, and it is here that the years the nation has traveled is more easily discernible in the almost magical mix of Australia’s historic past and its developing present.