Public holidays in Australia

Public holidays in Australia are a little bit odd if you aren’t used to them.

There are 8 public holidays under the “National Employment Standards”:

  • 1 January (New Year’s Day)
  • 26 January (Australia Day)
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • 25 April (Anzac Day)
  • Queen’s birthday holiday (on the day on which it is celebrated in a state or territory or a region of a state or territory)
  • 25 December (Christmas Day)
  • 26 December (Boxing Day)

This is according to Fair Work Australia on their web site here.

This is pretty much the same as in the UK. England and Wales normally have 8 public holidays, although Scotland does better with 9.  You can find details about them here.

It is certainly not the case that Australians get a lot more holidays than the UK. In New South Wales there appear to be 12 in a normal year and 13, indeed, in 2012.  But, if you look at the list here carefully, you will see that this is misleading.

One of the days is actually a real Bank Holiday, only for the banks, so that leaves 12 or 11 in a normal year.  Then, two of these are Easter SATURDAY and SUNDAY and the extra day this year is actually because 1 January fell on a Sunday so the public holiday was the next Monday.  Since in the UK we count only Mondays to Fridays that we get off work, this means that the equivalent way to count means there are 9 public holidays in NSW.

One thing has improved since December 2011 in New South Wales. Before then, if Australia Day (26 January) fell on a weekend, essentially workers lost the day.  However, since then, we get an “extra day” or an “Australia Day Observed”, if you like.  This will apply in 2013 when 26 January is a Saturday and in 2014 when it is a Sunday.

To sum up, NSW has 9 public holidays when counted on the same basis as the UK; so, living in NSW is like being in Scotland except it’s warmer and the whisky is way more expensive!

And why does NSW have more holidays than the national set?

Well, states are allowed to have extra holidays and NSW has set the first Monday in October (a Spring holiday) to be Labour Day.  States are also allowed to choose when to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday.  NSW chooses the second Monday in June – Winter here, remember – as the Queen’s birthday.  This seems very close to Trooping the Colour and the Official Birthday in the UK, but the UK gets Pageantry and NSW gets a holiday!

The lattitude that states have provides some extra sources of confusion for a Brit because it means that not everyone is on holiday at the same time and, if they are, they are on holiday for a different reason! So, NSW, ACT and South Australia are celebrating Labour Day today.  Queensland and Western Australia are celebrating the Queen’s birthday. And, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Victoria aren’t having a holiday at all.

And, if you look at the list of holidays, South Australia seems to have an awful lot. But, look more closely: several of them are from 7pm to midnight! Nice idea to have a holiday but you wouldn’t want to be thinking you can buzz off for the day.

So, don’t let anyone try to tell you that the Australians get more holidays than the Brits.  They might but the devil is in the detail. However, remember there are other benefits: in general the weather is probably better in Australia on public holidays – well, most of the time, I suppose.



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