It’s been many years since I was in Australia for Australia Day. To be honest I was a little unenthusiastic about the day, my impression of it tainted by the cliched jingoistic crowd wearing Australian flag capes and Southern Cross tattoos with green and gold zinc making lots of noise about what is and isn’t ‘Australian’. That kind of agressive one-eyed nationalism doesn’t appeal to me. With camera in hand I headed into town to see how the City of Melbourne would celebrate the national day. I was surprised, impressed, pleased and even quite proud of the modern face of this nation. It was a day for families, a day for multiculturalism, for good food, nostalgic cars, farmers and sheep, picnics, music and first Australians. Admittedly it didn’t match the picturesque ideal of sunny days, dry summer grass, sprinklers, big gum trees and busy beaches of my childhood Australia Days, it really was a true and joyful expression of the variety that is ‘Australia’.
A man takes a solo row down the quite Yarra River early in the morning, past the distinctive architecture of Federation Square and a large eucalyptus tree growing on the river bank.
At the Big Brekkie in the Alexandra Gardens people line up to buy a range of breakfast foods from different cultures, here it’s Spanish eggs.
People write their favourite breakfast recipes on paper bag and peg them on to string for display, leading to range of different tasty foods from different cultures; A cook teaches some intrigued children how to make noodles in a display for the Big Brekkie.
An old fashioned tram conductor in short short chats to people sitting and eating breakfast in the Alexandra Gardens.
A line of Australian flags outside Federation Square with an empty Swanson Street tam stop, the street closed for the People’s Parade; A young family walks towards Flinders Street Station, the facade decorated with Australia Day banners.
Small Australian flags stringed up as a barricade along Swanson Street for the Flag Raising Ceremony and People’s March.
A performer on stilts and a bicycle entertains with waiting crowd and hands out Australian flags to eager people; Two children sit on the gutter waiting to watch the march, with Australian flags on both sides of Swanson Street.
Crowds cross the street outside the iconic Flinders Street Station, it’s facade decorated with Australia Day banners and an overcast sky above.
Crowds of people lining Swanson Street take photos of the Flag Raising Ceremony outside the Town Hall.
People at the front of the crowd take photos as the Army and Navy march down Collins Street and turn into Swanson Street towards the Town Hall for the Flag Raising Ceremony.
Looking through the crowd to the Navy with their flag lined up outside the Town Hall; A woman holds a camera high above her head to get photos of the Flag Raising Ceremony.
A police officer stands guard in Swanson Street as onlookers behind the Australian flag barricade take photos and look around.
Scouts and Guides salute as a sailor raising the Australian Flag outside the Town Hall; A man watches the parade with a small Australian flag in his back pocket.
An older woman looks at a card she was given with the words to the National Anthem print on it as she sings along.
A young boy with his family is very excited to see the Chinese Dragon dance past in the People’s March, he actually squeals.
Colourfully dressed Bangladeshi girls in red and orange traditional saris walk in the People’s March with their flag, one girl looking over her shoulder at the crowd.
A young girl with ‘I love Aus’ on her cheek watches the Chinese community pass by in the People’s March.
Smiling girls in Macedonian traditional dress wave their flag as they walk down Swanson Street as an older man in an Australia hat plays the Macedonian Gajda, a sheepskin bagpipe.
An older man in traditional Turkish dress festooned with Australian and Turkish flags dances his way down Swanson Street.
The statue of Burke and Wills looks down on crowds on either side of Swanson Street watching the People’s March; Aside from the various cultural and ethnic community groups of Melbourne, also represented were other community clubs such as the Dr Who Club of Victoria and the Star Wars Costuming Community, or this knitting club from Collingwood.
Happily dancing Mauritian women and girls and drumming men dance their way down Swanson Street in bright traditional dress.
Australians young and old watch the People’s March down Swanson Street.
Glamorous Filipino women in sequinned versions of their traditional dress with matching parasols walk gracefully down Swanson Street.
Happy young Ukrainian women sing as they walk down Swanson Street in traditional dress with colourful flower wreaths on their heads.
A woman with an Australian flag poses for a photo in front of a large fountain at the Kings Domain Gardens, filled with leafy green trees; A young kelpie keeps an keen eye on his sheep while herding them in a working dog demonstration at the Kings Domain Gardens.
Crowds in the Kings Domain Gardens behind a fence pay close attention as a bloke from the country explains how he teaches kelpies to round up sheep, the sheep waiting patiently; Classic and vintage cars lined up on display in the Kings Domain Gardens with Australian flags on the roof.
A kelpie rounds sheep into the corner of a pen then climbs on top on them during a working dog demonstration.
People picnic with tables and chairs beneath trees on the lush green grass in the Kings Domain Gardens beside a display of classic and vintage cars including a 1950s Holden station wagon.
A sheep patiently waits to be shorn, with camera crews watching closely, as a man explains to the crowd how a sheep is shorn and why they really don’t mind it.
Art from various Aboriginal communities is displayed beneath green leafy trees in the Treasury Gardens as part of the Share the Spirit Festival; People sit on the grass in the Treasury Gardens and watch the Skin Choir perform.
Two young girls draped in Aboriginal flags walk across the Treasury Gardens; A flag declaring ‘No room for racism” on display at the Share the Spirit Festival.
All images and text ©Jess Gibbs 2013