Every year on the 26th of January, on this day since 1788, Australia celebrates its national day.
It is the day in which the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay bringing with it the first European settlers into the southern continent is remembered. Then, named New Holland and later renamed Australia.
The Dutch who discovered a lot in the seventeenth century, without settling any apart from the Batavia settlement in what is now Indonesia, sailed by in 1644 with Abel Tasman at the helm, saw the landmass and promptly named it, New Holland. Over a 100 years later in 1770, Captain James Cook of the Admiral Royal Navy discovered and mapped the eastern coastline of the new continent, and claimed what is now New South Wales for Britain.
Unlike the Dutch, Britain had a good plan for the new territory. It was to become a penal colony, in part to solve the overcrowding of criminals in London and surrounds.
Eleven ships were prepared to sail to New South Wales. It took an average of 250 days for the ships to land, all arriving together as a fleet within two days on January 19th and 20th.
Of the 1,420 passengers and crew that left Portsmouth a year earlier, just over half were convicts. The other half was made up of soldiers, free passengers seeking their own fortune, and wives and children of the crew. There were just under a 100 casualties at sea.
These days, celebrations of Australia Day is not just about European discovery and settlement because of course, Australia had long ago been discovered. There is no exact dating, but the common range of 40,000 to 60,000 years is given for Aboriginal settlement in the southern continent.
Today, the celebrations are about celebrating what is “Great” about the country. It is great for a number of reasons, not least, that many peoples from around the world, like its original European settlers, have found a new future, with peace and economic prosperity, in the new country. Australia has become the “lucky” country in many respects, for many people.
Samoa has benefited significantly in many ways from Australia. We have a significant partnership with Australia and her people over the years. It will be like that for a number of years.
In helping our local Australians celebrate their national Day, Samoa Events will now put on the Australia Day Swim on Tuesday, 26th. This will be on every year, in part to recognise the contribution Australia and her people have made to the establishment of Samoa Events in Samoa from Financial injection through Aid and Programmes, to staffing, High Commission involvement, and not least the participation of many Australians in Samoa Events’ activities through the year – swimming, running and cycling.
There are more Australians that participate in these events than do Kiwis, even though Samoa Events is largely a NZ invention.
The Australian High Commission has been an immense source of help in the past through various funding programmes.
The swim is in the Harbour at lunchtime on Tuesday. All are invited to attend, and help celebrate Australia Day. Even if you are not swimming, come down and wear something yellow, bring a yellow flag, to cheer on the swimmers and raise a toast to the lucky country.
The official race distances are symbolic. The 2.28km swim represents the 228years since British and European settlement. The 1km swim represents the thousands of years the indigenous Aboriginal people have lived on the continent.
In the absence of precise ancient dating, 26th January has become the day for all Australians to celebrate nationhood.
Australia Day swim is one of three events Samoa Events has on this week. The others are the People’s Run Series on Wednesday, and the annual Falefa Falls Run on Saturday.
All information can be found on www.samoaevents.com
Australia Day Swim / Tues, 26 January / Apia Harbour
12.00, Distances 2.28km Swim
12.15, 1km swim
12.40, Costume swim (100m)
12.50, Aust Day Swim Relay, Aust vs NZ vs Samoa vs All others