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Labour Day in Australia

Labour Day, also known as Eight Hours Day in Tasmania and May Day in the Northern Territory, commemorates the granting of the eight-hour working day for Australians. It also recognizes workers’ contributions towards the nation’s economy. It is an annual public holiday and its date varies across the states and territories.

Argentina: Daylight Saving Time start on December 30, 2007
May Day, known as Labor Day in some countries, is a day of rest and is usually held in the spring.
May Day, known as Labor Day in some countries, is a day of rest and is usually held in the spring.
©iStockphoto.com/angel rodriguez

What Do People Do?

Many people use the Labour Day holiday as part of a long weekend where they can relax, spend time with friends or family members, play or watch sport, have barbecues. Some people plan a getaway trip to a coastal region, the mountains or the countryside where they can engage in various activities such as picnics, wine-tasting at a winery, bush-walking, or camping.

Throughout the nation, Labour Day is an occasion for unions, community groups and the general public to join in celebration. In Queensland’s capital city of Brisbane there are marches are held on or around Labour Day. They are often led by the state’s key political leaders and influential key figures. Union members often take part in these marches.

Public Life

Labour Day is a public holiday in all states and territories in Australia. It is observed in Western Australia on the first Monday in March and on the second Monday in March in Victoria and Tasmania. The Northern Territory observes Labour Day on the first Monday in May. It is held on the first Monday of October in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, and South Australia. Until 2012, Queensland observed Labour Day on the first Monday in May.

During this holiday government offices are closed, as are post offices, schools and many businesses. Those planning on using public transport on this holiday need to check with the local transport authorities prior to travelling.

Background

The history of Labour Day in Australia spans over a century. It is an important annual event that remembers those who struggled and succeeded to ensure decent and fair working conditions in Australia. During the mid to late 1800s the working day was long and arduous, where some employees would work up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Many Australians saw the need for better working conditions and in the 1850s there was a strong push for this. On April 21, 1856, stonemasons at the University of Melbourne marched to Parliament House to push for an eight-hour working day. An agreement with employers for a 48-hour week was eventually reached and Australian workers welcomed the new eight-hour day. A victory march was held on May 12 that year and each year after that. In 1856 the new work regulations were recognized in New South Wales, followed by Queensland in 1858 and South Australia in 1873.

In 1874, Tasmania joined the other states, which were colonies at the time, in adopting the shorter eight-hour working day. In 1879 the Victorian Government made one further step towards better conditions for employees by proclaiming a paid public holiday that year. In light of the labour movement’s successful push for an eight-hour day, a large May Day meeting was held in Melbourne in 1890. On May 1 that year a local newspaper made reference to that day as May Day.

One of the first May Day/Labour Day marches in Australia occurred on May 1, 1891 in Queensland. More than 1000 people participated in the march and carried banners. The leaders wore blue sashes and the Eureka flag was carried. It was reported that cheers were given for “the eight-hour day”. The Labour Day date was moved from May to the second Monday in March in some parts of Australia after World War II. Since 1948, Labour Day in Western Australia has been observed on the first Monday in March. It marks the granting of the eight hour working day to Western Australians.

Symbols

The number eight has often been spotted on many union buildings in Australia to symbolize an eight-hour working day.  For example, the Eight-Hour monument featuring a golden globe bearing the 888 symbol was erected in Spring Street in Melbourne in 1903.

Renowned Australian writer and poet Henry Lawson (1867-1922) wrote a poem “Freedom on the Wallaby” to mark one of the largest May Day/Labour Day demonstrations in Queensland in 1891 where it was reported that cheers were made for “the eight-hour day”. There have been other songs and poems that refer to the theme behind this holiday and the efforts of the labour movement in modern times such as “The Eight-Hour Day” by John Warner, calling for Australians to stand up united and maintain their rights to an eight-hour work day.

Disclaimer: Precise dates for this holiday in Australia in the late 19th century and early 20th century have not been confirmed, however based on research, estimates have been provided for the earlier dates of this holiday. Timeanddate.com would appreciate any historical fact on these dates, so please contact us at: webmaster@timeanddate.com .

About Labour Day in other countries

Read more about Labour Day.

Labour Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
MonMar 12010Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 82010Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 82010Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 32010May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory
MonMay 32010Labour DayCommon State holidayQueensland
MonOct 42010Labour DayCommon State holidayAustralian Capital Territory, New South Wales
MonOct 42010Labour DayCommon State holidaySouth Australia
MonMar 72011Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 142011Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 142011Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 22011May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory
MonMay 22011Labour DayCommon State holidayQueensland
MonOct 32011Labour DayCommon State holidayAustralian Capital Territory, New South Wales
MonOct 32011Labour DayCommon State holidaySouth Australia
MonMar 52012Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 122012Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 122012Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 72012May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory
MonMay 72012Labour DayCommon State holidayQueensland
MonOct 12012Labour DayCommon State holidayAustralian Capital Territory, New South Wales
MonOct 12012Labour DayCommon State holidaySouth Australia
MonMar 42013Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 112013Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 112013Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 62013May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory
MonOct 72013Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, Qld, SA
MonMar 32014Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 102014Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 102014Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 52014May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory
MonOct 62014Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, Qld, SA
MonMar 22015Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 92015Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 92015Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 42015May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory
MonOct 52015Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, Qld, SA
MonMar 72016Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 142016Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 142016Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 22016May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory, Queensland
MonOct 32016Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, SA
MonMar 62017Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 132017Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 132017Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 12017May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory, Queensland
MonOct 22017Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, SA
MonMar 52018Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 122018Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 122018Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 72018May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory, Queensland
MonOct 12018Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, SA
MonMar 42019Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 112019Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 112019Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 62019May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory, Queensland
MonOct 72019Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, SA
MonMar 22020Labour DayCommon State holidayWestern Australia
MonMar 92020Labour DayCommon State holidayVictoria
MonMar 92020Eight Hours DayCommon State holidayTasmania
MonMay 42020May DayCommon State holidayNorthern Territory, Queensland
MonOct 52020Labour DayCommon State holidayACT, NSW, SA

Quick Facts

Labour Day in Australia celebrates workers’ role in contributing towards the nation’s economy. It is an annual public holiday but its date varies across the states and territories.

Labour Day 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016 (Western Australia)
Monday, March 14, 2016 (Victoria)
Monday, March 14, 2016 (Tasmania)
Monday, May 2, 2016 (Northern Territory, Queensland)
Monday, October 3, 2016 (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia)

Labour Day 2017

Monday, March 6, 2017 (Western Australia)
Monday, March 13, 2017 (Victoria)
Monday, March 13, 2017 (Tasmania)
Monday, May 1, 2017 (Northern Territory, Queensland)
Monday, October 2, 2017 (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia)

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Name in other languages

NameLanguage
Labour DayEnglish
Tag der ArbeitGerman

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in October 2016 in Australia

United Nation Holiday on October 3, 2016

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