Australian Traditions

"Australian Traditions - Australia Day, Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup and BBQ's!"

We all know that the British came to Australia to build their prisons and shipped their convicts over here. This was the start of Australia as we know today...not of course forgetting the importance of the Aborigines that had lived off the land for thousands of years prior to this and suffered terribly once the British arrived.

So are there any traditions from these days? From a convict side of things, there is very little. It's such a negative start to Australian history that it seems only right that there shouldn't be much association with these times. If there is anything that sticks, it's a culture of supporting the under dog and looking after your mates.

So, the traditions in Australia tend to focus around key dates: notably Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Melbourne Cup, Christmas and the Queen's Birthday.

Read on for more information on each of these dates as well as some social etiquette for your stay here....

Australian Traditions - Australia Day

Australia Day is one of the key Australian traditions. It is celebrated on 26th January and is declared a National Holiday.

On this day, Aussies across the country celebrate being Australian. They are a very proud bunch and you'll see flags hanging out of car windows and houses for the entire last week of January.

To be honest, many Aussies just see it as a day off work and an excuse to have a few beers the night before. But times are changing, with each of the states putting on heaps of cracking entertainment (including music and fireworks,) encouraging us all to do something Australian like have a BBQ, adorn ourselves with flags and catch up with friends.

So why the 26th January? Well here is where the controversy starts as it marks the date when the British arrived in New South Wales to build their penal colony.

So not only is it a particularly negative event, it also does nothing to unite the Aboriginal community to the cause, nor does it have any meaning for the other 4 states in Australia.

There has been discussion of making the event at another date - but what would be a more suitable date? No-one has come up with anything as yet.

The sentiment is still correct though - it's about celebrating all that is good about Australia- the outdoors lifestyle, the democratic freedom we all enjoy, the excellent standard of living with so many of us living so close to a beach and the Australian sense of fun.

Australian Traditions - ANZAC Day

Another important day that commemorates a key war moment from the first World War on 25th April 1915 when Australian troops landed in Gallipoli, on behalf of the British. It was a battle against the Turks over the control of the Dardenelles.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps

Unfortunately it was hardly Australia's finest hour as nearly half the troops that landed there were instantly killed - The turks were ready for them and the Australians hardly landed in the best position either.

The day itself is another National Holiday for Australia and it is good to see a real level of respect for the many war heroes for the first and second world wars. There are marches in most major cities but the key event is the Dawn Service. There is usually one in each of the state's major cities and takes place early in the morning around 5.30am. This is when most battles took place so is an important time to show respect. The most photographed and ceremonial Dawn Service is probably at the War Memorial in Canberra.

I'd still say though for the majority of Aussies, it's still about the drinks in the pub and the infamous "Two Up" betting game that anyone can join in with. It's a pretty simple game of betting whether the next flip of the coin will be a head or a tail. It gets pretty rowdy and it's possible to hear the shouts from the crowded pubs from a fair distance on ANZAC Day.

But which is more significant - Anzac Day or Australia Day? I think most Australians would pick Australia Day due to its upbeat vibe, particularly compared to the sombre occasion of Anzac Day. Both dates however do seem to mark unhappy events though in reality.

Australian Traditions - Melbourne Cup

This is another classic day in the Australian Calendar and one of the most well known Australian traditions. It is a National Holiday for those lucky enough to live in the state of Victoria.

It is essentially the biggest day of the year in Horse Racing and is held in Melbourne every year on the first Tuesday in November. The tradition stems right back to the gold digging days when gambling was a big past time for those being lucky enough to find gold.

The first race was held in 1861 and has been going ever since. Throughout Australia on that Tuesday in November Australia stops to watch the horse race. Those that never place a bet all year will go and have a flutter - it's such a long race (3200m) with usually about 30 runners that anyone can be a winner!

The tradition is to dress up as if you are going to the races - hats, dresses and suits for the men, go out for lunch, drink champagne and then watch the race at about 3pm. Most offices close at mid-day and put on a lunch for their staff members and those in Victoria may go to the race or enjoy the full day off.


The Christmas traditions from Britain still ring true throughout Australia and it always feels strange to me, to celebrate Christmas when it is hot - especially when they insist on images of snowmen, snow and ice!

Still the Aussies have put their own twist on the British traditions and come up with their own Australian Traditions - with Barbies and Seafood replacing the Cooked Turkey - well on the whole anyway!

For more information on Christmas traditions go to Christmas in Australia

The Queen's Birthday

Isn't it ironic that it's only the Australian's that get a public holiday for the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June every year - not the British! Australian traditions at its best!

The Queen is still head of the state of Australia for now and we all relish in a day's holiday. There aren't any particular celebrations that go on but it is something we all look forward to in June.

Will the Queen continue to be the head of State for Australia for much longer? Will the government call a referendum and ask the people what they think? Is it time for Australia to be Independent from the UK and move forward? The country seems divided on this issue. Some adore the monarchy and want it to continue to be part of the culture of Australia. Others think it is holding back Australia and we should move forward. What do you think?

Australian Social Etiquette Traditions

If you are new to Australia or visiting from a fairly hierarchical or perhaps Asian state, then you may find the laid back style of the Australians a bit of an adjustment. Here are a few things to be mindful of in the way of Australian traditions:

  • Australians will usually introduce themselves by their first names - no formalities of Mr Smith - just Bruce!
  • Dress code is usually fairly relaxed. Ties are rarely worn at work although in some industries like banking, it is still a common site. Thongs on the weekend with a T-shirt and shorts are the go!
  • The Aussies like their personal space - don't get too close and personal when you talk to them
  • Queuing - a hang up from the British I think - It's polite to stand in line and NOT push in when waiting for a bus, for a server in the bank, at the front of a pub etc etc You are likely to get a few rough words if you don't!

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