Public holidays in Australia
- 1 Nature of public holidays
- 2 Public holidays
- 3 Other holidays
- 4 Long weekends
- 5 Public holidays by state
- 6 References
Nature of public holidays
Traditionally, work, public or private, were entitled to take off a public holiday with regular pay. In recent years this tradition has changed somewhat. For example, businesses that are normally open on a public holiday may request employees to work on the day, and refusal can only be denied by the employer on reasonable business grounds.
The entitlement to penalty rates was eliminated entirely in many workplaces under WorkChoices; however since the implementation of the Fair Work Act 2009 and the modern awards in 2010, most public holiday penalty rates have increased dramatically. Currently, employees are generally paid at a penalty rate—usually 2.5 times (known as "double time and a half") the base rate of pay.
Besides designating days as public holidays, some of these days are also designated as restricted trading days.
Public holidays are determined by a combination of:
- Statutes, with specific gazetting of public holidays; and
- Industrial awards and agreements.
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. If a worker is required to work on a public holiday or substituted public holiday, they will usually be entitled to be paid at a holiday penalty rate.
Alcohol licenses in many states prevent sale of alcohol on certain public holidays, such as Good Friday.
|New Year's Day||1 January||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Australia Day||26 January||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Royal Hobart Regatta||2nd Monday in February||No||No||No||No||No||H||No||No|
|Labour Day||1st Monday in March||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Adelaide Cup* as proclaimed by the Governor of South Australia||2nd Monday in March||No||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Eight Hours Day||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|Good Friday||variable date||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Easter Saturday||variable date||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Easter Sunday||variable date||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Easter Monday||variable date||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Easter Tuesday||variable date||No||No||No||No||No||C||No||No|
|Anzac Day||25 April||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|May Day||1st Monday in May||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No|
|Western Australia Day||1st Monday in June||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Queen's Birthday||2nd Monday in June||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Picnic Day||1st Monday in August||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No|
|Queen's Birthday||As proclaimed by the Governor of Western Australia (September/October)||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Family & Community Day||1st Monday of 3rd term school holidays (Sept/Oct)^||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Labour Day||1st Monday in October||Yes||Yes||No||Yes ||Yes||No||No||No|
|Recreation Day||1st Monday in November||No||No||No||No||No||NH||No||No|
|Melbourne Cup||1st Tuesday of November||No||No||No||No||No||No||Yes†||No|
|Christmas Eve||24 December||No||No**||No||No||Yes~||No||No||No|
|Christmas Day||25 December||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Boxing Day||26 December||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|New Year's Eve||31 December||No||No**||No||No||Yes~||No||No||No|
|Total holidays||12||11||11||10||11 + 2 half days||12||11||10|
- C = Conditional: Public Service employees or where defined in Employment Agreement/Award
- H = Hobart area only
- NH = Not Hobart area
- ^ Note that when Family and Community Day falls on Labour Day holiday in the ACT, this holiday changes to the 2nd Monday of 3rd term school holidays.
- ~ From 7pm to midnight
- † 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.
- ** Depends on occupation, generally from 6pm to midnight 
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.
|New Year's Day||Yes|
|Good Friday||Not applicable (always on a Friday)|
|Easter Saturday||Not applicable (always on a Saturday)||Not applicable (not a holiday)||Not applicable (always on a Saturday)||Not applicable (not a holiday)|
|Easter Sunday||Not applicable (not a holiday)||Not applicable (always on a Sunday)||Not applicable (not a holiday)|
|Easter Monday||Not applicable (always on a Monday)||Yes (when another public holiday coincides)|
|Labour Day||Not applicable (always on a Monday)|
|Anzac Day||Yes||No||Yes||No||No ||Yes|
|Queen's Birthday||Not applicable (always on a Monday)|
|Boxing Day/Proclamation Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||Sunday only||Yes|
|New Year's Eve||Not applicable (not a holiday)||Sunday only||Not applicable (not a holiday)|
NOTE: Prior to 2008, Victorian law only specified substitute holidays for New Year and Boxing Day, and only if they fell on a Sunday. From 2008, Victorian law specifies the substitute holidays in the table above.
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. In the year 2038, Anzac Day will coincide with Easter Sunday.
Australia Day is Australia's national day celebrated on 26 January annually in all states and territories. 26 January was chosen because it is the day of the establishment of the first English settlement at Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788.
Recorded celebrations date back to 1808 in Australia, and in 1818, Governor Lachlan Macquarie held the first official celebration of Australia Day. It was made a public holiday in New South Wales in 1836, and Victoria adopted the day as a public holiday in 1931. It commenced to be celebrated by all states and territories in 1946, but began to be actually celebrated on 26 January from 1994.
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 organized 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, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. In both Victoria and Tasmania, it is the second Monday in March. In Western Australia, Labour Day is the first Monday in March. In the Northern Territory it is the first Monday in May.
The days of Easter vary each year depending on the day determined by the Western Christian religious calendar. Until 1994 Easter Tuesday was a public holiday in Victoria (it retains this status partially in Tasmania). For the basis of how the days are determined see Easter. The NSW Public Holidays Act 2010 refers to the day after Good Friday as "Easter Saturday," but the Victorian Public Holidays Act 1993 refers to it merely as "the Saturday before Easter Sunday."
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.
In all states and territories except 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. 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. In 2012, Queensland celebrated the Queen's Birthday on the first weekend in October, the June holiday for that year being a special holiday to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Following 2012, the holiday has reverted to its normal June date in Queensland in line with the other eastern states.
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 progressively banned by the states in the 1980s. The sale of fireworks in the Australian Capital Territory was also banned on 24 August 2009.
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 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.
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 and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race which also starts on this day.
- Sunday is nominally a public holiday in South Australia.
- Proclamation Day is in December in South Australia only.
- Canberra Day is held on the 2nd Monday in March in the ACT. Prior to 2008, this holiday was celebrated on the 3rd Monday of March.
- Melbourne Cup Day is held on the first Tuesday of November - the day of the Melbourne Cup. It was originally observed only in the Melbourne metropolitan area. From 2007 to 2009 in ACT, Melbourne Cup day was also a holiday called "Family and Community Day". The holiday continues from 2010 but no longer coincides with Melbourne Cup day. In Victoria, the Public Holidays Act 1993 (Vic) was amended from 24 September 2008 and made the Melbourne Cup Day holiday applicable in all parts of the state (unless another day is observed in substitute). It also made the holiday applicable to employees covered by federal awards.
- Recreation Day is the first Monday of November, and celebrated in Northern Tasmania where Regatta Day is not a holiday.
- Regatta Day is the second Monday in February, and is celebrated in Southern Tasmania. Previously it was held on the second Tuesday in February.
- Geelong Cup Day is held on the fourth Wednesday of October in the city of Geelong, Victoria
- Queensland Day is celebrated on 6 June each year, but not with a public holiday.
- Adelaide Cup Day is held on the second Monday in March in South Australia (held in May before 2006)
- Western Australia Day in Western Australia on the first Monday in June.
- Picnic Day in the Northern Territory in August, and also May Day
- Tasmania has Easter Tuesday as a bank holiday (for bank and government employees only).
- New South Wales has the first Monday in August as a bank holiday (for bank employees only).
- Many cities and towns observe local public holidays for their local Agricultural Show. For example:
Public holidays by state
The days are set in the "Holidays Act 1983".Holidays Act 1983 (PDF) 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.
- 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.
- Birthday of the Sovereign: 2nd Monday of the month of June.
- Labour Day: 1st Monday of the month of October.
- Christmas Day: 25 December.
- Boxing Day: 26 December.
- If Christmas day (25 December) is a Saturday or Sunday, then 27th December is also a public holiday.
- If Boxing day (26 December) is a Saturday or Sunday, then 28th 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.Public holiday dates for 2011-2015
In 2011 ANZAC Day and Easter Monday fell on the same day, and so the minister moved Easter Monday to Tuesday.
In 2011, Queensland changed the gazetted public holidays in the Holiday Act where if a public holiday falls on a Sunday the following day will be an additional public holiday, rather than a substitute day. In addition to this, there was a special Queen's Jubilee public holiday in June 2012 only and the Queen's Birthday public holiday was moved to the first Monday in October. After 2012, the Queen's Birthday will be celebrated in Queensland on the second Monday in June in line with the other eastern states.
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.
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 doesn't 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. All public holidays and substitute public holidays are bank holidays.
The Victorian public holidays are as follows:
|New Year||1 January|
|Australia Day||26 January|
|Labour Day||2nd Monday in March|
|Good Friday||Friday before Easter|
|Easter Saturday||Day before Easter|
|Easter Monday||Day after Easter|
|Anzac Day||25 April|
|Queen's Birthday||2nd Monday in June|
|Melbourne Cup Day||1st Tuesday of November*|
|Boxing Day||26 December|
Melbourne Show Day used to be observed on the Thursday in the last full week of September as a public holiday until 1994 (abolished by Kennett state government). Easter Tuesday was also observed as a public holiday in Victoria until 1994 (also abolished by Kennett state government).
- National Public Holidays
- Australian Government - Public Holidays - Public holidays for each Australian state
- Australian Council of Trades Unions - Library: Public Holidays
- "Public Holidays Australia - What are public holidays?".
- "Public And Bank Holidays Act 1972". Western Australia.
- "Statutory Holidays Act 2000". Tasmania.
- "Workplace Standards". Tasmanian Government. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
- "ACT Government Media Releases". Australian Capital Territory.
- "Public Holidays". SafeWork SA. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "Holidays Act 1958". Australian Capital Territory.
- "Public Holidays Act 2010 No 115". New South Wales.
- "Public Holidays Act". Northern Territory.
- "Holidays Act 1983" (PDF). Queensland.
- "Holidays Act 1910". South Australia.
- "Public Holidays Act 1993" (PDF). Victoria.
- "Public Holidays Act 2003" (PDF). Victoria.
- "Public Holidays 2011". Northern Territory.
- "Public Holidays 2011". South Australia.
- "Public Holidays 2011" (PDF). Tasmania.
- "National Australia Day Council - History". Retrieved 20 February 2008.
- "Australia Day History". Australia Day Council of New South Wales. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
- "Public Holidays Act 2010 - Sect 4". New South Wales Government. Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
- Department of Consumer and Employment Protection, Labour Relations division
- "Cracker down: ACT bans fireworks". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 24 August 2009. Retrieved 24 August 2009.
- Holidays: Adelaide Cup in Australia
- Competing With ASian Clothing Tigers
- Australia - the land of the long weekend
- Whoever said this was the land of the long weekend?
- "Holiday double treat for Queen's big year". Fairfax Media. 6 November 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- "NSW Retail Trading Act 2008 No 49". Part 3A.
- Business Victoria - Can I open my shop on a public holiday?
- Public Holidays Act 1993 - (sec 9 Bank Holidays)
- Business Victoria - Victorian Public Holidays & Shop Trading Hours - 2009
- "Detailed History". Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.