A New Date for Australia Day
The Second Day of The Second Month.
A Second Chance
A painting depicting the arrival of the First Fleet and the raising of the Union Jack in Sydney Cove. Credit: State Library of Victoria
It has become quite obvious that Australia has become divided over our National Day, January 26th.
And this is happening more so with the younger generations that the older. If younger people believe that it needs to be changed, it is only a matter of time before the your generations will have the numbers to affect a change of date.
But it will happen.
And it’s not like we don’t know about “Invasion Day”
In 1888, prior to the first centennial anniversary of the First Fleet landing on 26 January 1788, New South Wales premier Henry Parkes was asked about inclusion of Aboriginal people in the celebrations. He replied: “And remind them that we have robbed them?”
And on the The 150th Anniversary in 1838, First Nations declare the date to be a “day of mourning”.
WE, representing THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA, assembled in conference at the Australian Hall, Sydney, on the 26th day of January, 1938, this being the 150th Anniversary of the Whiteman’s seizure of our country, HEREBY MAKE PROTEST against the callous treatment of our people by the whitemen during the past 150 years, AND WE APPEAL to the Australian nation of today to make new laws for the education and care of Aborigines, we ask for a new policy which will raise our people TO FULL CITIZEN STATUS and EQUALITY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.’
A Date Change and the Reason Behind it
Here is proposed date, based on the past and the future, but first, to understand why this date is being proposed, let’s take a quick look at the current Australia Day, the 26th of January.
First, there are many misconceptions about January 26th.
Many people celebrate January 26th to celebrate the day the First Fleet arrived in Australia in 1788.
But that was not the day when the First Fleet arrived. HMS Supply which was the first ship to arrive and land at Botany Bay on the 18th of January. Over the next 2 days, the 19th and 20th the remaining ships in the fleet arrived.
Other people believe it to be the day that Governor Arthur Phillip proclaimed the colony of New South Wales.
But that is also incorrect. The formal proclamation occurred on the 7th February.
What was special about the 26th January 1788?
After arriving at Botany Bay, Governor Phillip was quick to realise that Botany Bay was not suitable for a colony. The Bay was too shallow and had little protection from storms, and there was no fresh water.
On the 21st Captain Phillip led an investigation into Port Jackson and found it a much more suitable anchorage and there was a small creek.
On the 26th, Captain Phillip moved the First Fleet to Sydney Cove.
The only “ceremony” that occurred on that day was the raising of the Union Jack.
This is an unusual reason to celebrate a national day. Usually the national day is celebrated the day it gains independence.
It should be noted that the convicts did not disembark until the next day.
What Date for A New Australia Day?
First off, in a practical sense Australia Day should be in Summer – 1st December to 1st March
- December is too busy and there are already 2 holidays: Christmas (25), Boxing Day (26)
- January 1, the logical choice when granted Independence: But is is already a public holiday – New Year’s Day
- At the end of summer and early autumn, there is the Easter four day long weekend. It can occur from the 22nd March to April 25th. (Generally, Easter is observed on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox – March 20.)
- April 25th is ANZAC Day.
As Australia already has 3 public holidays from Dec 25 – Jan 25. (4 if you count the 26th) it should not be earlier than the 25th of January, and with Easter a possibility in late March, it should fall between Late January and Early March.
This makes February the ideal time.
Let’s continue with the past. As mentioned there are three significant dates in 1788. Two are in January and one in February.
As the fleet arrived over 3 days (18,19,20th) we can discard the actual arrival dates. (No, we’re not declaring a 3 day public holiday!)
Therefore, the 2 significant dates for the arrival are:
- 26th of January 1788, the raising of the flag in Sydney Cove
- 7th of February 1788, the Proclamation of the colony of NSW by Captain Phillip
Most people look to the past to find a date for Australia Day, and I will be doing that also; however we will also consider a second concept to add to the date.
The proposed date of Australia’s National Day is the 2nd of February.
For a start, it falls between those two important dates, the Arrival on the 26th and the Proclamation of NSW on the 7th of February.
But first, take a step back. Imagine the significance of a slightly different time line in 1788…
- 26th January – Raising of the Flag in Sydney Cove
- 2nd February – Making a Treaty with the local Gadigal people of the Eora clan
- 7th February – Formal Proclamation of the Colony of New South Wales
Just imagine how different thing might have been!
And yes, it is understand communication would have been all but impossible impossible, but, nevertheless just consider if the First Fleet and Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in New Holland with the intention with the intention of making a formal treaty with the inhabitants. In this case that small group of Aboriginal people from the Eora clan and giving them formal rights — rather than continuing with the Terra Nullis doctrine, the land was “nobody’s land.”
Claim the Date 2/2 now,
and make it more significant in the future
In the future it could be the day we:
- Formalize a Treaty with First Nations people
- The Day we adopt a new Australian Flag
- The day we become a Republic
While I believe all three are important, it is vital to formalize a treaty with the First Nations.
And this leads to the next reason for the second day of the second month:
The Second Day of the Second Month
A day for a Second Chance
It could also become not just a day to celebrate, but also become a Day of Reconciliation, a day of Forgiveness, A day to correct injustices. A day where we give people a Second Chance.
- Sign a treaty with the First Nations. It would be a second chance to do it right even if it is 250 years late
- A second chance to reconcile with estranged love ones
- A second chance for people convicted of crimes
- A second chance to repair the damage done with friends
What better day of celebration could there be if we could bring together estranged friends and family or give someone a second chance at making a life for themselves.
As a nation Australia has has prided itself on “a fair go”. A second chance is an extension and broadening of that.
And why not the First of February?
In my opinion a Second Chance on the Second Day of the Second Month “works.”
And while extremely obscure, the First of February has been used previously. In 1927, it was the day that the Northern Territory divided into North Australia and Central Australia, and then four years later, in 1931, North Australia and Central Australia merge to become Northern Territory. (
Yes it is very obscure and I bet you didn’t know that for a short while there was North Australia and Central Australia!
The Second Day of the Second Month appears to be completely free of any significant events
And for those that say it’s all a bit contrived a bit manufactured…The answer is yes, and no.. In 1788 nothing much probaly happened in Sydney Cove on 2nd February
So was the Queen Elizabeth II birthday. (King’s?) If the celebration of the Head of State can celebrated on a manufactured date…
Consultation with Aboriginal People
We need to come together as a nation. It simply is not good enough for people to ignore the plight and pain of our First Nation’s people.
But first, we need to talk with the First Nations people to see if this concept is a way we can move forward and have a day for us all.
I like to think it can work. What do you think?
Some Other Info of Interest
About those first few months in 1788:
Sydney Cove is the location commonly between the Sydney Opera house and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, now known as Circular Quay.
The Rocks, below Sydney Harbour Bridge, was where the first settlement occurred.
That small creek, known as the Tank Stream has long since “disappeared” where it is now, no more than a storm water drain hidden underground. It could be considered a metaphor for what was to come.
Even then, Sydney was not sustainable as a settlement. In April 1788 they explored further west and in November 1788 started the second settlement at Paramatta.
A Brief Timeline for the First Settlement
- 1787-05-13 – First Fleet sets sail for New Holland
- 1788-01-18 – Fleet arrive between 18-20th First Fleet lands at Botany Bay Brig HMS Supply was first to arrive and land on 18th January
- 1788-01-21 – Captain Phillip accompanied with some officers investigate Port Jackson
- 1788-01-26 – FF arrives in Sydney Cove and raise the flag in the evening.
- 1788-01-27 – Convicts disembark
- 1788-02-07 – The formal proclamation of the colony of NSW. It originally comprised more than half of the Australian mainland with its western boundary set at 129th meridian east in 1825. Phillip, as Governor of New South Wales, exercised nominal authority over all of Australia east of the 135th meridian east between the latitudes of 10°37’S and 43°39’S, an area which includes modern New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania and New Zealand.
- 1788-02-11 – At the first criminal court, Samuel Barnsley was sentenced to 150 lashes for assault and Thomas Hill to confinement in irons on a small rocky island at the head of the cove for stealing bread. (Fort Dennison, aka Pinchgut)
- 1788-04-24 It was very quickly realised that Sydney Cove was unsustainable as a settlement. Poor soils and only the Tank Stream for fresh water, Governor Phillip loked further afield and chooses Paramatta with it’s rich soil as the site of the second settlement.
- 1788-11-02 – Rose Hill (now Paramatta) founded
- 1801-05 – Governor King issued an order that Aborigines near Parramatta, Georges River and Prospect could be shot on sight.
Information about the 26th or Australia Day
- 1808-01-26 – First mentioned in the NSW Almanac From 1808 This became known as First Landing Day or Foundation Day
- 1808-01-26 – The arrest of Governor William Bligh which became known as the Rum Rebellion
- 1818-01-26 – Governor Lachlan Macquarie declares the first official celebration
- 1837-01-26 – Certain events were only available to those born in Australia
- 1838-01-26 – 50th anniversary of the founding of the colony, and as part of the celebrations Australia’s first public holiday was declared.
- 1888-01-26 – The Centenary. Prior to 1888, 26 January was very much a New South Wales affair, as each of the colonies had its own commemoration for its founding.
- The decision to mark the occasion of the First Fleet’s arrival in 1788 at Sydney Cove and Captain Arthur Phillip’s proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern continent on 26 January was first made outside NSW by the Australian Natives’ Association (ANA), a group of white “native-born” middle-class men formed in Victoria in 1871. They dubbed the day “ANA Day”.
- In 1888, all colonial capitals except Adelaide celebrated “Anniversary Day”. In 1910, South Australia adopted 26 January as “Foundation Day”,to replace another holiday known as Accession Day, which had been held on 22 January to mark the accession to the throne of King Edward VII, who died in May 1910.
- 1915-07-30 – The first “Australia Day” was held to raise funds to fight World War I
- 1938-01-26- The 150th Anniversary, First Nations declare the date to be a “day of mourning”.
- 1946 – The Commonwealth and state governments agreed to unify the celebrations on 26 January as “Australia Day” in 1946, although the public holiday was instead taken on the Monday closest to the anniversary.
- 1949 – The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 came into effect on 26 January 1949, creating Australian citizenship for the first time. Previously, the government-approved residents of Australia had only been “British nationals”; now they had both Australian and British nationality.
- 1988 –
- 1994 – Australia Day became a public holiday in every state and territory.
Some more useful dates
- 1825-12-03 – Van Dieman’s Land proclaimed a separate colony
- 1829-06-18 – Swan River Colony proclaimed
- 1836-12-28 – Province of South Australia proclaimed.
- 1840-11-16 – New Zealand constituted as a separate colony. (1840-07-01)
- 1846-02-17 – North Australian colony proclaimed. Revoked by Queen Victoria in the same year.
- 1851-07-01 – Colony of Victoria founded.
- 1856-01-01 – Van Diemen’s Land renamed as Tasmania
- 1859-06-06 – Queensland authorized as a separate colony.
- 1863-07-06 – Northern Territory annexed from N.S.W. to South Australia.
- 1901-01-01 – Commonwealth of Australia proclaimed.
- 1911-01-01 – Northern Territory reformed and transferred to Commonwealth control.
- 1911-01-01 – Federal Capital Territory established. Renamed Australian Capital Territory in 1938.
- 1915-07-12 – Jervis Bay added to Federal Capital Territory.
- 1927-02-01 – Northern Territory divided into North Australia and Central Australia.
- 1931-02-01 – North Australia and Central Australia merge into the Northern Territory.
- 1989-05-11 – Jervis Bay becomes a separate Commonwealth Territory