June 11

Since 1788: Our Oldest Holiday

As usual, Australia’s dwindling republican movement is whingeing about The Queen’s Birthday  Holiday, instead of  deigning to tell us how they want to change the constitution and the flag.  The fact is that fact Australians have enjoyed this holiday since 1788 when Governor Phillip declared a holiday on the birthday of King George III. 

 It is celebrated on the second Monday in June (except in Western Australia where it is celebrated later in the year on a date proclaimed by His Excellency the Governor. This is because Foundation Day is celebrated on the first Monday in June. It also demonstrates that Australia is a federation, and the determination of many matters is left to the States.) 



…Monarch’s  Birthday in 1788…


George Mackaness in "Admiral Arthur Phillip – Founder of New South Wales 1728-1814" describes that event thus (as posted to the 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. (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 in allStates , apart from Western Australia.

…Australian Crown remains central to our system…

The institution which Phillip represented is our oldest. Professor Atkinson says the Crown figured largely in his view of the world. He paid extraordinary attention to our oldest holiday, The King’s birthday.  

“Phillip’s reconstruction of the Crown within his government, his essence in transferring the essence of eighteenth century monarchy to this vast and remote space, was a remarkable labour of imagination,” writes Professor Atkinson.

The Crown has since evolved and been Australianised so much so that our High Court has ruled that the Australian Crown is an institution separate  from the British Crown and that allegiance to the British Crown is allegiance to a foreign power: Sue v Hill, 1999.

All that the Australian Crown has in common with the New Zealand Crown, the Canadian Crown or the British Crown is that they are worn by the same person and there the law of succession is identical in each of the sixteen Realms.

The Australian Crown is now a significant part of the Australian constitutional system. Providing leadership beyond politics, it is a significant check and balance against the improper exercise of political power.




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