Anzac Day Australia

Anzac Day Australia

The Second World War shifted the focus of Australians from Australia Day to the more sombre ANZAC day. In the years leading up to war, and even during the war, the Australian Natives Association had been working patiently towards the unified naming and dating of our national day. In 1946, following their concerted efforts and with the support of similar movements, the Commonwealth Government and all States and Territories finally agreed to observe the same national day - 26 January - and to call that day Australia Day.
Separate Australian citizenship became law in 1949. The waves of non-British immigration after 1945 led to a new role for Australia Day, one that celebrated new citizenship with 'naturalization' ceremonies. Arthur Calwell, first Minister for Immigration, had allowed immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean into Australia, unwillingly and unknowingly starting the first small steps to a fully multicultural Australia.
In 1963, the Australia and New Zealand Weekly reported "4,500 'New Australians' will become fully-fledged Australian citizens". Citizenship ceremonies are still an integral part of Australia Day celebrations around the nation with the smallest town or rural village delighted if they can host a ceremony for even one new Australian citizen on 26 January.
The public holiday mentality of the average Australian for 26 January was deplored by many commentators. In 1957 the Editor of The Educational Magazine, published by the Victorian Education Department, writes that 'the celebration of Australia Day, or the comparative lack of it, has always caused embarrassment both to those who would like to celebrate and those who would chiefly like to see that others do'.
Meanwhile, existing celebrations for Australia Day continued to have a largely imperial feel and influence and were quite formal. The Australia and New Zealand Weekly described 26 January, 1959 in Sydney as a march of 12,000 men, women and children through the city to the Botanic Gardens, led by the NSW Mounted Police, the armed services and sporting personalities. The NSW Governor and Premier were in attendance for the ceremony which included a re-enactment of the First Fleet landing.

The Sydney celebrations from 1959 to around 1971 were conducted by a group called the Sydney Committee which also organized the annual Waratah Festival - a far more expansive affair than Australia Day. Australia Day ceremonies were typically formal, with a strong military involvement and the presence of numerous dignitaries including the Governor, Premier, Lord Mayor and Service Chiefs. A positive aspect was the Committee's determination to conduct their events on 26 January, regardless of the day in the week on which it fell.

The first Australian of the Year, an award given out on Australia Day, was bestowed on Macfarlane Burnet in 1960. Professor Burnet had won the Nobel Prize that year for his groundbreaking physics research. Later recipients of the Australian of the Year were to come from many backgrounds, though the earliest winners seemed to be expatriates and recognized overseas. Later winners were less internationally prominent, but of immense service to the Australian community.

Throughout the sixties, there was skepticism about Australia Day. Professor Ken Inglis wrote in 1967 that it was a 'contrived and unpopular ceremony' which was 'followed by popular enjoyment'. Yet even Professor Inglis saw the need for such a day, as he hoped it might become a day where professional historians and amateur historians may meet, and celebrate Australia's past.
In the 1970's, Australian citizenship was redefined with the concept of multiculturalism. The Whitlam Labor Government adopted this policy to break the hold of the old White Australia Policy, which limited the countries and circumstances from which potential migrants could come to Australia. This broader approach to citizenship has made Australia Day the focus of new citizenship. As in the past, Australia Day was used as the focus for citizenship drives. Rather than defining citizenship, now Australia Day was to attract new citizens. The traditional sources of migration - Europe (particularly England) and other Commonwealth countries - were taken over by migrants from Asia and the Middle East. The Minister for Immigration in the Whitlam Government, Al Grassby, used Australia Day to exhort migrants to become citizens. On Australia Day 1974, he called on everyone to 'celebrate it by making someone who is not yet an Australian citizen feel a member of the family of the Australian nation. Help them to become a citizen.' A coupon was placed in major national newspapers on the day which stated proudly, 'Belong to Australia - as a citizen', which Australian citizens were meant to give to non-citizens living here.
The Fraser government continued the citizenship policies of the Whitlam Government, despite opposition from its own supporters. On Australia Day, 1976, Malcolm Fraser triumphantly told a packed Melbourne Myer Bowl that the days of Anglo-Celtic dominance in Australia were over. The largely Italian-descended crowd went wild.
From 1977 to 1986 the official NSW Australia Day ceremony was conducted by the Festival of Sydney, from 1982 on behalf of the Australia Day Council of NSW. Pre-1988, all ceremonies were principally based on the historical significance of 26 January and involved a Tri-service Guard, the reading of Captain Phillip's 1788 Proclamation and the raising of the original Union flag as well as the Australian flag. In 1979 the National Australia Day Council was formed. State councils or committees followed, the Australia Day Council of NSW being formed in 1981. From its inception, the NSW council encouraged 'grass roots' celebrations, working primarily with the 177 local government authorities in the promotion of the celebration of Australia Day. However, the Australia Day public holiday was still held on the Monday closest to 26 January and to the broad community it was just another holiday.
By 26 January 1988, the community was really ready to fulfil the NSW Bicentennial Council's logo "Let's Celebrate" and the world saw a 'spirited and emotional country' as Australians enjoyed the spectacular events on and around Sydney Harbour and across the country. In NSW alone, over 25,000 events took place and an estimated 2.5 million people attended the celebrations in Sydney. And in 1988, for the first time, a public holiday was held around the nation on January 26 January. In Sydney the ships of the First Fleet Re-enactment arrived in Sydney Harbour. These ships had departed Portsmouth on the 13 May 1987, arriving in Botany Bay earlier in January and then finally entering the heads on the morning of 26 January 1988. On the same day the sail training ship the Young Endeavour became Britain's Bicentennial gift to the nation and Sydney Harbour was also host to a large number of Tall Ships from many nations.

Pre-1988, re-enactments of the 1788 landing were almost a prerequisite for any Australia Day ceremonies. In 1988 however, while the First Fleet ships staged a re-enactment of the voyage and subsequent arrival of the original First Fleet in Sydney Harbour, the NSW government reacted strongly against the suggestion of a landing re-enactment, stating they would 'ensure that such a completely insensitive and politically volatile act did not take place'. An advertisement was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald acknowledging the arrival of the First Fleet had led to the "destruction of Aboriginal society." The ad, signed by the organizer, Dr. Jonathan King, also stated, "The way in which Aboriginal society has been disregarded and almost destroyed since the arrival of Captain Phillip's fleet must now be recognized. Their needs must be acknowledged, their protests must be heeded."

Alongside the formal program celebrating 200 years of white settlement, the Aboriginal community staged a massive march for 'Freedom, Justice and Hope' in Sydney. It was estimated 15000 people attended the march and subsequent rally. The five-kilometer march began with a mourning corroboree. White supporters were asked to join the march halfway. The protests organizer, the Reverend Charles Harris, called for a national conference to examine ways of increasing Aboriginal democracy. Reverend Harris suggested people like Justice Michael Kirby be involved. While 1988 was named a Year of Mourning for Aboriginals, it was also regarded as a celebration of survival. This was the most vocal indigenous presence ever felt on a 26 January. As well as the festive and fun events, the 1988 Bicentennial, unlike earlier major celebrations in NSW, will be remembered for leaving a substantial number of very diverse and useful projects. Funded by a grant system from the NSW Bicentennial Council, these projects played a significant role in the participation of regional communities.