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History 101: The Significance of the Labour Day Holiday

Looking forward to the Labour Day long weekend to take a break from studies and work is something that we all do. Whether it is partying hard with friends, a romantic weekend getaway with your partner or going on a hiking trip to the mountains, the Labour Day long weekend comes as a welcome break from our mundane routines. However, the reason we get a day off on Labour Day is steeped in the history of Australia in the 1800s. Let us look at why we observe Labour Day that has lent to the historical significance of the holiday we all love to enjoy.

History 101 The Significance of the Labour Day Holiday

Why is Labour Day observed?

Labour Day is called the Eight Hour day in some places in Australia, signifying the movement for an eight-hour-long workday for all in the 1800s. Most people in the 1800s’ Australia worked for an excruciating 14 hours per day and were not allowed any personal or sick leaves. To sum it all up, the working conditions for the workers were nothing short of horrible and the leaves that we take for granted nowadays were distant dreams in those dark times.

Fed up with the tyrannical pressure of work and almost zero job rights and privileges, the workers of the country decided to form a movement demanding immediate change of their appalling working conditions. They came up with the slogan “8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest” and took to the streets in many of the cities all over the country. The most famous among these protest marches is the stonemasons’ rally led by James Stephens in the city of Melbourne on April 21, 1856, from the University of Melbourne to the Belvedere Hotel in Fitzroy. Other stonemasons joined the rally along the way, and Australia woke up to recognising the rights of the workers. The employers as well the government finally gave in to the demands of the workers and an eight-hour workday was introduced with no loss of pay. The Eight Hours Procession, as the rally in Melbourne later on came to be known as, initiated the labour reforms and fight for labour rights in Australia.

In a glorious movement that altered the face of work and pay and established equal rights for the workers in the country thus marks the significance of the Labour Day. We have the brave stonemasons of Australia to thank for the privileges, holidays, personal and sick leaves that we enjoy these days as well as the eight-hours per day work framework that lets us maintain an optimum work-life balance in our lives. The Labour Day holiday is thus for fond remembrance of the brave souls who dared to protest against the working conditions with hopes of bringing about a positive change for workers all over the country.

Labour Day dates in Australia

The Australian Labour Day is observed on different dates in the states and territories primarily according to the dates when the rights of the workers were recognised officially in each of the states and territories all across the country. The second Monday of March is observed as a public holiday on account of Labour Day in Tasmania and Victoria. For the residents of New South Wales, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, Labour Day falls on the first Monday in October. Western Australia takes a day off on the first Monday of March for Labour Day while the public holiday for the day is observed on the fourth Monday of March in the Christmas Island territory. The Northern Territory and Queensland have named it “May Day” and go on a holiday for Labour Day on the first Monday in May.

Fun activities to liven up the Labour Day weekend

Now that you know the history of the holiday we all love to enjoy, here are a few exciting events that will be taking place in Victoria come Labour Day weekend. You can take your pick from the ones here or choose from a wide variety of festivals and activities taking place all over the country that you might attend on that long weekend. Sipping the choicest wine at the Mornington Peninsula, hiking the nearby woods or snuggling in for a quiet weekend, do not forget to unwind and distress for a much-deserved break from studies on the Labour Day weekend in Australia.

  • Melbourne Moomba Festival

All things Melbourne, the Moomba Festival represents the charming essence of the lively city all through the Labour Day weekend. With people coming to attend the iconic festival from all corners of the world, Melbourne is the place to be in during the Labour Day weekend if you wish to spend the holiday the quintessentially Aussie way. At the Moomba Festival, you will find a parade of large floats vibrantly decorated to celebrate the community festival, stalls with delectable food and wine, a wide range of adventure sports activities including water sports and BMX, and the much-famed and quirky Birdman Rally. For a fun-filled holiday, you can join the rest of the revellers for a weekend of leisurely song and dance while gorging on the delicious spread on offer by the banks of the Yarra River at Melbourne.

When and where: 9th to 12th March 2018 at Birraung Marr and Alexandra Gardens on the banks of Yarra River, Melbourne

  • Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong

Presenting a plethora of activities on water and at the waterfront, the Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong is a celebration of the artisanship and splendour of wooden boats. When you are not soaking in the sheer beauty and marvel of finely crafted wooden boats on the water, you can take part in the face painting activities, treasure hunts along the waterfront, check out the artwork on display at the art exhibitions, and groove to the tunes of the rock and roll nights. There will also be overnight voyages and ocean voyages onboard a tall ship for the inner sailor in you. If you are looking to spend the Labour Day weekend immersed in fun activities by the water, the Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong is where you should be headed.

When and where: 10th to 12th March 2018 at Royal Geelong Yacht Club, Geelong

  • Peninsula Piers and Pinots

The Flinders foreshore at the Mornington Peninsula decks up on the Sunday of the Labour day weekend every year for a marvellous wine-tasting festival along the beaches with a plethora of activities on offer for the tourists and locals where the local vintners set up rows and rows of stalls offering the best wine produced in the region. Since no festival Down Under is complete without a spread of delicious food, you will find local delicacies on sale by the George Bass Café, Red Hill Cheese and Red Hill Roast, Handmade Ice Pops and Calamari Brothers to gorge on along with the enchanting wine of the region. If you wish to spend a one-of-a-kind Sunday, you can settle at a quiet spot on the beach with some wine and food while jazz and blues play on in the background. You can watch the annual Pinot and Piers Yacht Race that the Flinders Yacht Club organises on the Sunday of the Victorian Labour Day weekend.

When and where: 11th March at Flinders Foreshore, Mornington Peninsula

  • The Myrtleford Festival

The sleepy little town of Myrtleford transforms into a hub of fun and frolic every year during the Myrtleford Festival that proudly celebrates the country way of life. You can roam about the town on foot, watching the colourful and vibrant parades or laze in your room, enjoying the soothing view of the lush green Oven Valley. What you must do in Myrtleford, however, is sample the local delicacies as serving up good food is at the heart of any Australian festival. Gulp the food down with some choicest draught beer and listen to the foot-tapping country music in the quaint pubs dotting the town square. The adventurous can also go for bicycle rides up the famous Murray to Mountains Rail Trail or simply hike up the mountains for a breathtaking view of the Ovens Valley and beyond.

When and where: 8 to 12th March 2018 at Myrtleford and surroundings

  • Redesdale Bush Market

Fancy a picnic on the Labour Day weekend? Gather your mates, grab some picnic cutlery and a rug and head to the quaint town of Redesdale for the ultimate countryside picnic experience straight out of the storybooks! The Redesdale Bush Market, held annually on the Labour Day weekend, is a fun way of spending a Sunday browsing through the scores of food stalls, fresh fruits and vegetables, olives, handmade crafts, local wine and cheese and many more items that might pique your interest. The picturesque town of Redesdale is all decked up for the Bush market on Labour Day, and picnic-lovers should not be giving it a miss. For a fun Sunday eating local food and lazing on the rug with your friends, Redesdale is the perfect place that can give it all during the Labour Day weekend.

When and where: 11th March 2018 at Redesdale

Now that you know all about the history behind the Labour Day holiday, you have the stonemasons of the 1800s to thank. You can revel at the activities listed here or can find some other thing to do during the long weekend of Labour Day to add some spark to your life and to take a break from the pressure of the studies. Enjoy responsibly but do not forget to make the most of your Labour Day holiday!

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History 101: The Significance of the Labour Day Holiday

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