One of the most polarising dates on the Australian calendar is back, though this year the coronavirus pandemic could mean fewer crowds at events around the country.
January 26 marks Australia Day or Invasion Day, typically seen as a celebration of the nation or a day of sorrow for the colonisation of an ancient culture.
For many First Nations people, it is a day to mourn the past and galvanise the community to address ongoing systemic racial injustice.
For others, it’s a chance to spend time with family and friends at the beach or around barbeques.
However you plan to spend the day, these are some of the big events in the capital cities.
There’ll be no Australia Day parade in Melbourne this year due to fears of another coronavirus outbreak.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews cancelled the event and has urged residents to follow health advice to avoid gathering in large numbers.
Smaller events are happening around the city, starting early with a 5:00am start for the Invasion Day Dawn Service at King’s Domain Resting Place.
The Victorian NAIDOC Committee has requested that people register in advance to comply with coronavirus restrictions.
Later, an Invasion Day rally will be held on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne from 10:30am.
The organisers, the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, say they have a COVID safety plan in place with marshals to control attendees.
Elsewhere, the Share the Spirit Festival returns to Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens on January 26, bringing together artists, musicians and dancers to celebrate Aboriginal music and culture.
Australian of the Year, legendary singer Archie Roach, will be performing at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Gates will open for the free event at 12:00pm.
Events in Sydney will be smaller than in previous years due to limits on crowd sizes amid the pandemic.
Those up early can catch the raising of the Australian and Aboriginal flags on Sydney Harbour Bridge at 5:15am.
Circular Quay will be much quieter than usual. There will be no Ferrython, Harbour Parade or Tall Ships race this year due to the pandemic, although the annual Oz Day 10km Wheelchair Race starts at 9:00am at The Rocks.
Other annual events will be broadcast live, including the Lord Mayor’s Citizenship Ceremony at the Opera House and fireworks over the harbour.
One of the biggest Invasion Day events is a planned march through the city starting at 9:00am at Djarrbarrgalli, or Sydney’s Domain.
Organisers say the demonstration is calling for “Australia Day” to be abolished and for “sovereignty, not constitutional recognition”.
The New South Wales Government has restricted protest gatherings to 500 people under current COVID-19 regulations.
But rally organiser and Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung and Dunghutti woman Elizabeth Jarrett said the community needed to “come together and fight back”, even if that breached health directives.
“Unlike COVID, the virus of colonial racism that came to these lands in 1788 cannot be defeated by self-isolation or quarantine,” she said.
Perth would usually play host to the nation’s largest Australia Day fireworks display, but local coronavirus restrictions mean this year’s Skyworks won’t go ahead.
In its place, the City of Perth has planned a five-day festival, which includes a water projection show that tells the stories of the Whadjuk Nyoongar people. There’ll also be markets and live music performances.
The city has also planned a children’s carnival, motocross and BMX displays, and skydivers twirling through the sky with Australian flags, all in Langley Park.
In the Supreme Court Gardens, the annual Birak Concert will feature Aboriginal entertainment, food trucks and other activities.
An Invasion Day rally will be held in Forrest Place from 1:00pm, before the space transforms into the City of Perth’s food markets from 4:30pm.
The City of Fremantle, which made headlines when it attempted to move its Australia Day citizenship ceremonies to January 28 in 2016, will hold its One Day in Fremantle event today.
It will feature a smoking ceremony at Bathers Beach from 8:00am, before a community barbecue at the nearby Kidogo Arthouse.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will kick off the Australia Day celebrations at a flag raising ceremony in Townsville at the Jezzine Barracks.
In less formal celebrations, Mackay locals will enjoy the unveiling of the Big Thongs while Sunshine Coast residents head to a beach parade at Buderim.
The traditional Australia Day egg-tossing championships will take place at Yeppoon along with the Capricornian Beach Games and the Bare Bottom Boat Regatta.
An Invasion Day rally and march will be held in Brisbane as well as Survival Day celebrations in Cairns.
South Australia is used to hosting more than 40,000 people in Adelaide’s Elder Park for Australia Day celebrations — but the day will look a little different this year.
The biggest events will be two free concerts featuring Birds of Tokyo and the Australian Girls Choir at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
Tickets will be limited to 5,000 at separate two-and-a-half-hour shows.
Tickets for a Smoking Ceremony at Botanic Park at 8:00am have already been exhausted, but people will be able to attend the Adelaide Central Market for free cooking demonstrations and an art installation.
On the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Victor Harbor council will host a free barbecue and citizenship ceremony at Soldiers Memorial Garden from 8:00am.
Australia Day Council of SA CEO Jan Chorley said that was one of dozens of events being planned at local council level across the state.
“There’s a jam-packed program comprising 85 events put on across 64 councils,” Ms Chorley said.
Ms Chorley said the theme of “reflect, respect, celebrate” was particularly relevant this year, with emergency and first responders to be singled out for praise.
She said no councils had scrapped events because of a push to change the date, but said there was strong focus on ensuring events were inclusive.
“First Nations people have been integral in shaping the events that are taking place across the city of Adelaide,” Ms Chorley said.
“There’s a very strong understanding and commitment to making a day of meaning for all.”
Australia Day in Tasmania will be more subdued this year.
In the state’s north, dozens of small planes from around the country are expected to fly into The Vale, at the foot of Mount Roland near Claude Road for a charity fundraiser and barbeque.
On Tasmania’s west coast, the 123rd Mount Lyall Strahan picnic will be going ahead, with up to 1,000 people permitted to attend in line with the state’s coronavirus gathering restrictions.
Several councils around the state are also hosting Australia Day awards and citizenship ceremonies, along with smaller community celebrations.
Two Invasion Day rallies have also been planned in Tasmania, with one protest to be held on Parliament House lawns in Hobart, and another in Devonport in the state’s north-west. Both rallies begin at midday.
The Territory’s largest running event, the annual Oz Run, is on again and is expected to attract up to 4,000 people.
Energetic locals can walk or run along the waterfront, or just turn up for the sausage sizzle.
Participants are encouraged to dress up.
For those who prefer their action to be wheel-based, the annual Ute Run kicks off at 9:30am at Hidden Valley Race Track before winding through the northern suburbs streets and concluding at Noonamah.
The city’s largest Invasion Day/Survival Day event will be held at Civic Park at 10:00am, on Larrakia (Saltwater) country.
Australia Day events remain significantly pared back in the capital despite having no new infections for several weeks.
The main community event is The Great Aussie Picnic at the edge of Lake Burley Griffin where Daryl Braithwaite, among others, will perform.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the “re-imagined” Australia Day event “will ensure Canberrans have a COVID-safe acknowledgement of Australia Day”.
Each year Canberra also hosts the major citizenship event.
Twenty-five new Australians will be welcomed at Rond Terrace, in view of Parliament House.
A Survival Day march from the city to the lawns of Parliament has also been planned.
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