Four in five Australians see Australia Day as more than just a day off, and the National Australia Day Council (NADC) says 26 January is the most celebrated day in the country, marking the occasion in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip planted the Union Jack at Sydney Cove.
While there’s been considerable controversy over the date in recent years, NADC says there has been a shift during the past decade to acknowledging Australia as a country comprising people from all walks of life, evidenced by the fact there are more citizenship ceremonies held on Australia Day than any other day of the year. Local leaders are honoured for their service in the Australian of the Year Awards, and many people take the opportunity to get together with family and friends at hundreds of community events around the nation.
And if all else fails, there are always the classic lamb ads.
The ACT will be in on the action on the day, and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is predicting a mostly fine day (with just the chance of a small shower).
It wouldn’t be a noteworthy occasion in the ACT without a colourful display at the Carillion. From 23 to 26 January, the faces of the Australians of the Year will be projected onto its towering walls.
Other national attractions nearby will also be illuminated in campfire colours, embracing the idea of ‘Lighting the Campfire’, where people come together to share food and stories.
The National Archives is creating a space where people can view snaps from history. The Federation of Chinese Community of Canberra is organising an Australia Day concert at the Nara Peace Park from 10 am with singing, dancing, martial arts, and Aboriginal and musical performances.
From 10:30 am in Commonwealth Park, the ACT Government is producing the Nainmurra Nguurruu Australia Day in the Capital event.
This will take the form of a showcase of contemporary Australia, with artists from a wide range of global and First Nations cultural backgrounds coming together to share workshops, talks, roving performances, vibrant stage collaborations and delicious food.
It will be followed by a traditional dance circle beside the waters of Nerang Pool from 5:30 pm, complemented by an engaging program of diverse, contemporary First Nations performers at the gypsy caravan stage.
The Bangladeshi Seniors Club will also be acknowledging the role Bangladeshi immigrants have played in Australia with a daylong festival showcasing their culture with dress, food stalls, a community barbecue and live entertainment. This will be held at the Canberra Islamic Centre Mosque in Monash.
Nominees for the Australian of the Year Awards were announced in October 2021.
NBA Basketballer and Indigenous rights advocate Patrick (Patty) Mills is on the list for Australian of the Year as not only the first Indigenous Australian to carry the flag at the Olympic Games, but also as the driving force behind Indigenous Basketball Australia and the Team Mills Foundation supporting struggling families.
Valmai Dempsey, affectionally known as ‘Aunty Val’, is one of the ACT’s longest-serving volunteers. Every year she racks up countless hours helping others. Since joining its ranks as a cadet in primary school, she has been serving at St John Ambulance for 50 years.
Aunty Val is a nominee for Australian Senior Citizen of the Year.
At the other end of the spectrum, Sean Dondas is nominated for Young Australian of the Year. Since his mother died from cancer in 2019 and left the 14-year-old and his two younger brothers with no other family in Australia, Sean has been helping many young people in similar situations cope with a cancer diagnosis in the family as director at Canteen Australia.
The people of Canberra have named Luke Ferguson, a youth support worker at The Woden School, their local hero.
In 2019, Luke established a school-wide music program that trains students in all aspects of event planning, such as teaching them to create posters, set playlists and perform as DJs. He also co-wrote and produced the music video for Labels Don’t Define Us, a song about accepting diversity.
The recipients of the national awards will be announced on Tuesday, 25 January.