Public holidays in Australia

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Public holidays in Australia are declared on a state and territory basis.

States and territories of Australia first-level subdivision of Australia

The states and territories are the first-level administrative divisions of the Commonwealth of Australia. They are the second level of government in Australia, located between the federal and local government tiers.


Nature of public holidays

Traditionally, Australians in employment (whether in the public or private sector) have had the right to take a public holiday off work with regular pay. In recent years this tradition has changed somewhat. For example, businesses that normally open on a public holiday may request employees to work on that day. Employers can deny employees a holiday only on reasonable business grounds.

The public sector is the part of the economy composed of both public services and public enterprises.

The private sector is the part of the economy, sometimes referred to as the citizen sector, which is run by private individuals or groups, usually as a means of enterprise for profit, and is not controlled by the State.

Business Organization undertaking commercial, industrial, or professional activity

Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products. Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit. It does not mean it is a company, a corporation, partnership, or have any such formal organization, but it can range from a street peddler to General Motors."

From 2006, WorkChoices entirely eliminated the entitlement to penalty rates in many workplaces; however since the implementation of the Fair Work Act 2009 and the modern awards in 2010, most public-holiday penalty rates have increased dramatically.[ citation needed ]As of 2018 employees generally receive pay at a penalty rate—usually 2.5 times (known as "double time and a half") the base rate of pay—when they work on a public holiday.


WorkChoices was the name given to changes made to the federal industrial relations laws in Australia by the Howard Government in 2005, being amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 by the Workplace Relations Amendment Act 2005, that came into effect on 27 March 2006.

Fair Work Act 2009

The Fair Work Act 2009 is an Australian law passed by the Rudd Government after coming into power in 2007 to reform the industrial relations system in Australia. It replaced the previous Howard Government's WorkChoices legislation. It started operation on 1 July 2009.

Besides designating days as public holidays, Australian authorities also designate some of these days as restricted trading days.

Public holidays are determined by a combination of:

If a standard public holiday falls on a weekend, a substitute public holiday will sometimes be observed on the first non-weekend day (usually Monday) after the weekend, whether by virtue of the public holiday legislation or by ad hoc proclamation. Workers required to work on a public holiday or substituted public holiday will usually be entitled to remuneration at a holiday penalty rate.

All states have their own public holidays in addition to national public holidays, and in some states public holidays, such as Melbourne Cup Day, are provided[ by whom? ] on a local basis.

Alcohol licences in several states prevent sale of alcohol on certain public holidays, such as Good Friday.

Good Friday Christian religious holiday, the Friday before Easter

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, and Black Friday.

Public holidays

1 JanuaryNew Year's Day
26 January Australia Day
2nd Monday in FebruaryNoNoNoNoNoH Royal Hobart Regatta [1] NoNo
1st Monday in MarchNoNoNoNo [2] NoNoNoLabour Day
2nd Monday in March Canberra Day NoNoNoMarch Public Holiday (Adelaide Cup)* Eight Hours Day Labour DayNo
variable date Good Friday
Easter Saturday [3] [4] [5] The day after Good Friday [6] [7] No [8] Saturday before Easter Sunday [9] No [10]
Easter Sunday [11] No Easter Sunday [12] NoNo Easter Sunday [13] No
Easter Monday
NoNoNoNoNoC Easter Tuesday NoNo
25 April ANZAC Day
1st Monday in MayNoNoMay DayLabour Day [2] NoNoNoNo
1st Monday after or on 27 May Reconciliation Day NoNoNoNoNoNoNo
1st Monday in JuneNoNoNoNoNoNoNo Western Australia Day
2nd Monday in June Queen's Birthday No [2] Queen's Birthday No
1st Monday in AugustNoNo Picnic Day NoNoNoNoNo
variable dateNoNoNoB Royal Queensland Show [14] NoNoNoNo
As proclaimed by the Governor of Western Australia (September/October)NoNoNoNoNoNoNo Queen's Birthday
Day before the last Saturday in September or first Saturday in OctoberNoNoNoNoNoNoFriday before the Australian Football League Grand Final [13] No
1st Monday in OctoberLabour DayNo Queen's Birthday [2] Labour DayNoNoNo
1st Monday in NovemberNoNoNoNoNoNH Recreation Day NoNo
1st Tuesday of NovemberNoNoNoNoNoNo Melbourne CupNo
24 DecemberNoNo**P Christmas EveNoP Christmas EveNoNoNo
25 DecemberChristmas Day
26 DecemberBoxing Day Proclamation Day Boxing Day
31 DecemberNoNoP New Year's EveNoP New Year's EveNoNoNo
Total holidays131111 + 2 part days1111 + 2 part days121310
B City of Brisbane only. The Royal National Agricultural (RNA) Show Day (Brisbane only) is held on the Wednesday during the RNA Show period. The RNA Show commences on the first Friday in August, unless the first Friday is prior to 5 August, then it commences on the second Friday of August. [15] Other Queensland show holidays:
C = Conditional: Public Service employees or where defined in Employment Agreement/Award [16]
H = Hobart area only
NH = Not Hobart area
P Part day, from 7 pm to midnight [17]
Outside of Melbourne, another day may be substituted instead.
* The holiday is legislated for the 3rd Monday of May. Since 2006 it has been moved via the issuing of a special Proclamation by the Governor, to the 2nd Monday of March, on a trial basis. [18]
** Depends on occupation, generally from 6 pm to midnight [19]

Substitute holidays for holidays falling on a weekend

When a public holiday falls on a weekend, the following work day may be considered a public holiday depending on the state/territory and the holiday in question.

NameACT [20] NSW [21] NT [22] QLD [23] SA [24] TAS [8] VIC [25] WA [10]
New Year's DayYes
Australia Day Yes
Easter Monday Not applicable (always on a Monday)Yes (when another public holiday coincides)
ANZAC Day YesNo [26] YesNoYesNoNo [27] Yes
Boxing Day/Proclamation Day YesYesYesSunday onlyYes
New Year's EveNot applicable (not a holiday)Sunday onlyNot applicable (not a holiday)

Note: Holidays that always fall on a particular day of the week are not listed in this table. Prior to 2008, Victorian law only specified substitute holidays for New Year and Boxing Day, and only if they fell on a Sunday. [28] From 2008, Victorian law specifies the substitute holidays in the table above. [25]

Since Easter Monday can occur as late as 26 April (see Date of Easter) it is possible for the Easter Monday holiday to coincide with Anzac Day, as occurred in 2011. State Acts do not give a provision to separate the days when this occurs, so no additional public holiday is given by law. However an extra day is usually proclaimed by the minister, so as to have a steady number of public holidays each year. [29] [30] [31] In the year 2038, Anzac Day will coincide with Easter Sunday.

Australia Day

Nationally, Australia Day was originally celebrated on 30 July 1915 [32]

Recorded celebrations of the 26 January date back to 1808 in Australia, and in 1818, Governor Lachlan Macquarie held the first official celebration of Australia Day. [33] 26 January was chosen because it is the day of the establishment of the first British settlement at Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788. [34] It was made a public holiday in New South Wales in 1836, and Victoria adopted the day as a public holiday in 1931. The 26 January commenced to be recognised by all states and territories as Australia Day in 1946.

Australia Day has been celebrated as a national public holiday on 26 January since 1994. [35]

Since 1960, the winner of the Australian of the Year award is announced by the Prime Minister on the eve of Australia Day (25 Jan).

Labour Day

Labour Day commemorates the achievements of the Australian labour movement. The celebration of Labour Day has its origins in the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. On 21 April 1856 Stonemasons and building workers on building sites around Melbourne, Australia, stopped work and marched from the University of Melbourne to Parliament House to achieve an eight-hour day. Their direct action protest was a success, and they are noted as the first organised workers in the world to achieve an eight-hour day with no loss of pay, which subsequently inspired the celebration of Labour Day and May Day. In Tasmania the public holiday is called Eight Hours Day and in the Northern Territory it is called May Day.

The Labour Day public holiday varies considerably between the various states and territories. It is the first Monday in October in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. In Western Australia, it is the first Monday in March. In both Victoria and Tasmania, it is the second Monday in March. In the Northern Territory, and in Queensland [2] it is the first Monday in May.


The days of Easter vary each year depending on the day determined by the Western Christian calendar. Until 1994 Easter Tuesday was a Bank Holiday in Victoria (it retains this status partially in Tasmania). The day after Good Friday and before Easter Sunday is traditionally known as Holy Saturday. However, the states where that day is a public holiday use different terminology – it is officially gazetted as "Easter Saturday" in the ACT, New South Wales, and the Northern Territory; [3] [4] [5] as "the day after Good Friday" in Queensland and South Australia; [6] [7] and as "Saturday before Easter Sunday" in Victoria. [9]


ANZAC Day is a day on which the country remembers those citizens who fell fighting or who served the country in wars. ANZAC Day is commemorated on 25 April every year. The tradition began to remember the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers who landed at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I.

ANZAC Day commemoration features marches by veterans and by solemn "Dawn Services", a tradition started in Albany, Western Australia on 25 April 1923 and now held at war memorials around the country, accompanied by thoughts of those lost at war to the ceremonial sounds of The Last Post on the bugle. The fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen (known as the "Ode of Remembrance") is often recited.

Queen's Birthday

In all states and territories except Queensland [2] and Western Australia, Queen's Birthday is observed on the second Monday in June. Because Western Australia celebrates Western Australia Day (formerly Foundation Day) on the first Monday in June, the Governor of Western Australia proclaims the day on which the state will observe the Queen's Birthday, based on school terms and the Perth Royal Show. [36] There is no firm rule to determine this date before it is proclaimed, though it is typically the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October: in 2011 the Queen's Birthday holiday in Western Australia was moved from Monday, 3 October 2011 to Friday, 28 October 2011 to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which was held in Perth. [37] In Queensland, it is celebrated on the 1st Monday in October. [2]

The day has been celebrated since 1788, when Governor Arthur Phillip declared a holiday to mark the birthday of King George III. Until 1936 it was held on the actual birthday of the Monarch, but after the death of King George V, it was decided to keep the date at mid-year.

On that day the "Queen's Birthday honours list" is released naming new members of the Order of Australia and other Australian honours. This occurs on the date observed in the Eastern States, not the date observed in Western Australia.

The Queen's Birthday weekend and Empire Day, 24 May, were long the traditional times for public fireworks displays in Australia. Although they still occur, the tradition has recently been overshadowed by larger New Year's Eve fireworks, as the sale of fireworks to the public was banned by the states in the 1980s, and in the ACT as of 24 August 2009. [38]

Christmas Day

Christmas is observed on 25 December each year to commemorate the birth of Jesus. In Australia, it was introduced with British settlement in 1788 as the cultural norms were transferred to the new colonies. Though a Christian religious festival, it does not breach the constitution's separation of Church and State provision, because it is declared under State law, which is not subject to the provision.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is on the day after Christmas, i.e. 26 December each year, except in South Australia. In South Australia, the first otherwise working day after Christmas is a public holiday called Proclamation Day. [39]

Boxing Day is noted for the start of the post-Christmas sale season. The day has also become a significant sporting day. Melbourne hosts the Boxing Day Test match; the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race also starts on this day.

Other holidays

Public holidays by state


The days are set in the "Holidays Act 1983". Holidays Act 1983 Most public holidays include a second public holiday on a week-day if they happen to fall on Saturday or Sunday. In which case, both days are public holidays.

For public holidays in 2017–2019: see

New Year's Day: 1 January, and if 1 January is a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday.
Australia Day: 26 January, and if 26 January is a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday.
Good Friday: on the date it is publicly observed, always a Friday.
The day after Good Friday: Always a Saturday, one day after Good Friday.
Easter Monday: The next Monday after Good Friday.
ANZAC Day: 25 April, and if 25 April is a Sunday, 26 April.
Labour Day ("May Day"): 1st Monday in May. [2]
Birthday of the Sovereign: 1st Monday in October. [2]
Christmas Day: 25 December.
Boxing Day: 26 December.
If Christmas day (25 December) is a Saturday or Sunday, then 27 December is also a public holiday.
If Boxing day (26 December) is a Saturday or Sunday, then 28 December is also a public holiday.

Because of the variable days of Easter, Anzac day could fall on an Easter holiday. When ANZAC falls on Saturday, there is no week day public holiday. In such situations it is generally expected that the minister will proclaim extra public holidays on week-days to ensure every year has the same number of public holidays on week-days.

The minister of the state may proclaim and adjustments or additions, such as the date of the Brisbane Ekka Show day holiday. This day has historically always been proclaimed for the second Wednesday in August, except if there are 5 Wednesday's in August, in which case the third Wednesday in August. See

New South Wales

Public holidays generally follow the national pattern, but special cases are resolved by the State Government and advised by proclamation. Details of future holidays can be found on the NSW Industrial Relations website. Public holidays are regulated by the New South Wales Public Holidays Act 2010 No 115, which supersedes the Banks and Bank Holidays Act 1912 No 43.

The first Monday in August is a Bank Holiday, during which banks and financial institutions are closed. [41]


Public holidays in Victoria are regulated by the Victorian Public Holidays Act 1993.

Victorian employees fall under the Workchoices system either as coming within the Commonwealth constitutional power (called "constitutional corporation employees") or because of Victoria's referral of its legislative powers to the Commonwealth for particular workplace relations matters.

Employee entitlements to public holidays and additional pay depend on whether they are covered by a federal award or agreement.

Employees not covered by a federal award or agreement are entitled to public holidays under the Victorian Public Holidays Act 1993. Also, all permanent employees not covered by a federal award or agreement who would normally work on a public holiday (or a substitute public holiday) are entitled to the holiday without loss of pay. Their employers are not required to provide additional payment if they work on a public holiday, but this does not exclude the possibility of employees and employers negotiating for additional pay.

Employees who are covered by a federal award or agreement are entitled to public holidays as provided by the relevant federal award or agreement and the Public Holidays Act 1993. Many federal awards and agreements also provide for additional penalty rates for work performed on a public holiday.

Restricted shop trading laws apply to Good Friday, Christmas Day and before 1 pm on Anzac Day. On these days only exempted businesses are permitted to open for trading. [42] All public holidays and substitute public holidays are bank holidays. [43]

In August 2015, the day before the AFL Grand Final, as well as Easter Sunday, were gazetted as Public Holidays within Victoria. This date of the holiday is as gazetted by the Victorian Government and cannot be accurately predicted.

The Victorian public holidays are as follows: [44]

New Year1 January
Australia Day 26 January
Labour Day2nd Monday in March
Good Friday Friday before Easter
Holy Saturday Day before Easter
Easter Sunday Day of Easter
Easter MondayDay after Easter
Anzac Day 25 April
Queen's Birthday 2nd Monday in June
Day before Australian Football League Grand FinalVariable date in late September/early October
Melbourne Cup Day 1st Tuesday of November*
Christmas25 December
Boxing Day 26 December

* Melbourne Cup Day is observed in most of the state, but various cup days and show days in the state's west are locally substituted. See the list at .

Melbourne Show Day used to be observed on the Thursday in the last full week of September as a half-day public holiday—later changing to full day—until 1994 (abolished by the state government). [45] Easter Tuesday was observed as a Bank Holiday in Victoria until 1994 (also abolished by the state government).

Penalty rates

Penalty rates are the rates of pay which an employee is paid higher than their standard base rate for working at times or on days, such as public holidays, which are outside the normal working week. [46] They were introduced in 1947 for workers working on the Sabbath, [47] [48] as most workers were Christian, while today, these rates of pay are set by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

See also

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