Australia Day in Melbourne is celebrated with as much gusto as anywhere else in the country. Taking place every January 26th, it commemorates the arrival of the "First Fleet" at Sydney Cove, New South Wales, in 1788.
It is a national holiday and, in Melbourne, is characterised by a parade, fireworks and much partying.
Alison and I have been fortunate enough to always be in Melbourne at the time when Australia Day takes place. We took in the Parade in 2009 and 2013, taking up position next to Federation Square.
Apparently, there's an official Raising of the Flag ceremony outside the Town Hall at 10:30, after which the Parade begins, at 11:05. As well as the three armed forces, all manner of Melbourne's diverse ethnic groups are represented. There are also some quite quirky ones, such as the "Doctor Who Club of Victoria" and the "26ers", consisting of people whose birthday falls on this day.
So, one minute, you may see a traditional brass band:
then a pipe band:
then, further down the line, various more exotic instruments and costumes:
Throughout the day, Federation Square is decked out with market stalls, selling all manner of things and there's generally a carnival atmosphere.
The day's festivities continue, but the next event we were concerned with, in 2009, was the Fed Square concert in the evening. Each year, apparently, there's a different act providing the entertainment. In that particular year, it was a choir. They sang iconic Aussie songs, such as Waltzing Matilda and culminated with the national anthem.
At around 10:40pm, the firework display begins. This is suitably spectacular and goes on for some fifteen minutes. The Australian Open tennis (which usually holds matches late into the night), has to be stopped for this!
Concerts in subsequent years have not featured a choir. It's usually been an "indie" band, playing, I must admit, nothing that I was familiar with.
In the run up to the 2013 celebrations, I'd noticed, on Australian TV, reports on how some Indigenous Australians (the Aboriginal population) felt that Australia Day was celebrating the "invasion" of the country by the British. In fact, they referred to it as "Invasion Day". Over more recent years, the Australian government have become more sympathetic to their views and sought to incorporate the indigenous population into the event more positively.
It still remains a controversial matter, though.