January 26, 1788 was the date on which Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales. In the early 1880s the day was known as ‘First Landing’, ‘Anniversary Day’ or ‘Foundation Day’. In 1946 the Commonwealth and State governments agreed to unify the celebrations on January 26 as ‘Australia Day’. The day became a public holiday in 1818 (the 30th anniversary).
To many Indigenous peoples there is little to celebrate and it is a commemoration of a deep loss. Loss of their sovereign rights to their land, loss of family, loss of the right to practice their culture. Aboriginal people call it ‘Invasion Day’, ‘Day of Mourning’, ‘Survival Day’ or, since 2006, ‘Aboriginal Sovereignty Day’. The latter name reflects that all Aboriginal nations are sovereign and should be united in the continuous fight for their rights.
As a consequence Australia Day is disputed and many Australians call for a new day which all Australians could celebrate.
In all major cities you can visit alternative concerts (e.g. ‘Yabun’ in Sydney) where mainly Aboriginal people gather.