Here’s a bloke dressed as a cockroach celebrating the Cockroach Races at Australia Day celebration at The Story Bridge Hotel. Picture: Jack Tran
Here’s a bloke dressed as a cockroach celebrating the Cockroach Races at Australia Day celebration at The Story Bridge Hotel. Picture: Jack Tran

Stuff you didn’t know about Australia Day

WHO  knew Brisbane was home to cockroach races on Australia Day? One pub in particular has been doing it for the past 38 years and counting.

The Story Bridge Hotel even goes as far as providing a sporting arena and dedicated stadium with seating and corporate boxes for the races.

But on a more serious note, when it comes to January 26 most Australians don't even know what they are actually celebrating.

Last year, just 38 per cent of people surveyed by The Australia Institute knew that Australia Day commemorates the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove - in fact, many people thought Australia Day had always been held on January 26 - this isn't the case.

This is everything you need to know about Australia Day.

 

The First Governor Captain Arthur Phillip. Picture: State Library NSW
The First Governor Captain Arthur Phillip. Picture: State Library NSW

IT HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN ON JANUARY 26

Most Australians grew up celebrating Australia Day on January 26 but it wasn't always this way. The image below shows, it was first celebrated on July 30, 1915 to raise funds for the World War I effort.

It wasn't until 1935 that all states and territories recognised the term "Australia Day".

It took until the 1940s for Australia to get its national holiday in place and it wasn't until 1984 that the National Australia Day Committee was federally funded.

In 1838, New South Wales was the first colony to declare it a public holiday - on the 50th anniversary of the settlement - the occasion was marked with the second regatta on Sydney Harbour and the firing of 50 guns.

 

NOT EVERYONE AGREES ON THE DATE

There has always been some concern about the date which marks the day Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet, rowed ashore at Sydney Cove, raised the Union Jack and proclaimed British sovereignty over part of the continent in 1788.

Early settlers held dinners to commemorate the occasion in the early 1800s but it remained a very NSW-centric holiday for many years.

By 1888, it had become known as "Anniversary Day" and was a public holiday in all capital cities except Adelaide.

The name "Invasion Day" gained national prominence during the 1988 protests. The first "Survival Day" concert was held in 1992 but so too is it unclear whether this was the first usage of this name.

In 1938, a significant Aboriginal protest rallied against Australia Day and called it the "Day of Mourning".

 

Aboriginal activist John Patten (r) with (l-r) William Ferguson, Jack Kinchela, Helen Grosvenor and Selina Patten. A large blackboard displayed outside the hall proclaims, “Day of Mourning” on January 26, 1938.
Aboriginal activist John Patten (r) with (l-r) William Ferguson, Jack Kinchela, Helen Grosvenor and Selina Patten. A large blackboard displayed outside the hall proclaims, “Day of Mourning” on January 26, 1938.

NSW GOVERNOR RECOGNISED IT AS A DAY OF ROBBERY

The then NSW governor Sir Henry Parkes said the day was a reminder to Aborigines of how they had been "robbed".

"This day does not reflect a day that is worthy of celebration even for those on board the First Fleet who were either British military or prisoners of the Crown," Macquarie University Professor Bronwyn Carlson, an expert in indigenous studies, told news.com.au last year.

When Sir Henry was planning the upcoming celebrations of the 100 year anniversary, he was asked what - if anything - was being planned for Aboriginal people in the Centenary events.

MARRIAGE BETWEEN AN ABORIGINAL PERSON AND CONVICT OCCURRED ON JANUARY 26

On January 26, 1824, Robert Lock, a British convict and Maria Lock, the daughter of Yarramundi, known as the Chief of the Richmond Tribes, married in Paramatta.

Despite being married on that date, it was only by coincidence and has nothing to do with Australia Day. However, Maria Lock is a historical figure in Australia and it's Aboriginal history.

Maria was also the sister of Colebee who was captured, along with Bennelong, in 1789 and held at Government House (Colebee later escaped), according to SBS.

She was the first Aboriginal child to be admitted to the Native Institution in Parramatta, where it is believed that in 1819, at the age of 14, she topped the school examination and then three years later went on to marry Dicky, a son of Bennelong, who fell ill and died just weeks after their wedding.

She married again two years later to Robert Lock who was an illiterate, convict carpenter from England. He was assigned to her and placed under her supervision. This was the first legal Aboriginal-British marriage in the colony and they were wed at St John's Church in Parramatta.

When she passed away in 1878, her lands (totalling 110 acres in Blacktown and Liverpool) were left to her nine surviving children and they were occupied by her descendants until around 1920, when the freehold land was considered to be an Aboriginal reserve.

It was later revoked by the Aborigines Protection Board, SBS reported.

 

MEN MADE UP THE VAST PERCENTAGE OF CONVICTS

Eighty-five per cent of original convicts transported to Australia were male with an average age of 22, while 20 per cent of early convicts sent to Australia in the 1800s were women.

The majority of women convicts, and many free women seeking employment, were sent to "female factories" as unassigned women.

 

RANDOM COCKROACH RACES IN BRISBANE

They might call NSW the cockroach state but cockroach races are one of Brisbane's biggest Australia Day events - The Story Bridge Hotel in Kangaroo Point has been hosting an annual cockroach race for 38 years and counting.

They close off Baildon Street and set up the massive arena in the council carpark across the road (directly beneath the Story Bridge) for the huge street party. The first race of 14 kicks off at noon, with the last race at around 4.30pm and there are rules which you must follow.

 

Streets are blocked off for the annual cockroach race on Australia Day at the Story Bridge Hotel, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. Picture: Glenn Hunt/The Australian
Streets are blocked off for the annual cockroach race on Australia Day at the Story Bridge Hotel, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. Picture: Glenn Hunt/The Australian

THE TRIPLE J HOTTEST 100 WASN'T ALWAYS ON JANUARY 26

In 2017, the radio station decided to no longer hold the poll on Australia Day amid increasing debate about January 26 - on a date that signifies European invasion - and its meaning for indigenous Australians.

Triple j said it wanted to review the tradition of holding the countdown on Australia Day in 2016.

In a statement on its website in 2017, the station said: "In recent years the Hottest 100 has become a symbol in the debate about Australia Day.

"It should be an event that everyone can enjoy together - for both the musicians whose songs make it in and for everyone listening in Australia and around the world."

Pro-Australia Day campaigners aired their grievances on this matter saying that Australia Day won't be the same without the station's contributions.

Since launching in 1989, the Hottest 100 has grown into the world's largest music poll with more than 2 million votes cast every year.

 

It is taken very seriously. Picture: Renae Droop
It is taken very seriously. Picture: Renae Droop

 

WHAT THEY LIKED TO DRINK BACK THEN

While 21st-century Australians are renowned caffeine addicts, our ancestors were tea drinkers. Australia's first coffee seeds arrived aboard the First Fleet in 1788 yet failed to grow in the climate.

Though Parisian-style coffee palaces were popular in the 1870s, only with post-World War I European mass immigration did our modern coffee culture really start to percolate and become what it is today.

 

AUSTRALIA DAY AWARDS KICKED OFF MUCH LATER

It wasn't until 1960 when the Australian of the Year award was presented as a part of the Australia Day celebrations. Past recipients have included Dawn Fraser, Dick Smith and Steve Waugh. The ceremony is attended by thousands and is televised nationally.


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