The Queen's Birthday reminds us that the Australian Crown is our oldest institution, dating from the first settlement.
This is celebrated this year on Monday 9 June in South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and Tasmania, and in most of Western Australia on Monday 29 September*.
[ Royal Salute in Perth, the Western capital]
It was under the Crown that the nation was settled and under which we received self government. When we agreed to unite, as the preamble to the Constitution Act says, in "one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth'' we did so ''under the Crown' … and under this Constitution."
It is the institution under which we became independent, and which played a crucial role in the repatriation of the state constitutions in 1986.
The Crown is not a rubber stamp; it is an important check and balance on the exercise of power. It is not surprising then that The Queen’s Birthday is our first and oldest public holiday. As such it is a celebration of our history, our heritage and our great democracy.
…the oldest holiday for our most venerable and still important institution…
Australians have marked this day since 1788 when Governor Phillip declared a holiday on the birthday of King George III.
George Mackaness in "Admiral Arthur Phillip – Founder of New South Wales 1728-1814" describes that event with these words (as posted to the excellent Australian Republic Unplugged site):
“The fourth of June was the birthday of King George III, ‘their beloved sovereign’ as Collins describes him, The day was one ‘general rejoicing, festivity and forgiveness.’ “The Governor caused the Sirius and the Supply to fire three royal salutes; the transports still in the harbour and the battalion of marines fired volleys; the Lieutenant-Governor and all the officers, civil and military, waited on the Governor, who entertained them at dinner, with the band playing and much enthusiastic toasting and cheering.
“Describing the toast of His Majesty's Ministers, Surgeon White cannot refrain from punning hope that these ‘may be Pitted against any that ever conducted the affairs of Great Britain.’
“‘Being "a day of forgiveness,’ the four convicts, Lovell, Sidaway, Hall, and Gordon, confined at Pinchgut awaiting banishment, were ‘fully pardoned,’ so that Phillip could write: ‘For the twenty four hours I believe there was not one heavy heart in this part of his Majesty's dominions.’
“In the evening large bonfires – ‘we had plenty of wood,’ says Southwell – were lighted, and kept burning all night. With a supper tendered by the Governor to all the principal officers of the settlement, the festive day was brought to a close.’”
Until 1936 the actual birth date of the reigning monarch was observed as King's Birthday. (The Queen’s actual birthday is on 21 April.) But after the death of King George V it was decided to retain the June holiday weekend, apart from Western Australia, where this is too close to Foundation Day.)
In the UK, The Queen’s Birthday is celebrated with the ceremony known as Trooping the Colour – a parade down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, including a fly-past of military aircraft – as well as gun salutes fired at noon at Hyde Park. In Australia, Trooping the Colour takes place in Canberra with Royal Salutes fired in the capitals, and a public holiday proclaimed.
By tradition, events related to the Queen's Birthday are scheduled throughout Great Britain as well as in New Zealand (the first Monday in June), Canada, (on the last weekend in May on Victoria Day) when schools are usually closed and bank holidays proclaimed, as well as in other countries in the Commonwealth.
*There are exceptions: the Town of Port Headland and the Shire of Roebourne where it is celebrated on 4 August, the Shire of East Pilbara-Mable Bar on 7 July, and the Shire of East Pilbara – Newman on 18 August.