Labour Day in Australia Date in the current year: October 7, 2024

Labour Day in Australia Labour Day (spelled Labor Day in the United States) is an annual holiday that celebrates the achievements of the labor union movement, including the eight-hour working day. In most countries, it coincides with International Workers’ Day (May 1), but some have their own dates for Labour Day. In Australia, for example, it is celebrated on several dates depending on the state or territory.

The Australian labor movement began to take shape in the mid-19th century. Back than, most laborers worked up to 14 hours a day with only one day off a week. They had no sick or holiday leave, and employees could be sacked at any time for no apparent reason.

On August 18, 1855, members of the Sydney Stonemasons Society issued an ultimatum, informing their employers that they would only work an eight-hour day after a six-month transitional period. However, some of the workers didn’t want to wait that long. They preemptively went on strike and won the right for the eight-hour day. On October 1, 1855, they celebrated their victory with a dinner. That’s why Labour Day in the Australian Capital Territory is celebrated in early October.

On April 21, 1856, stonemasons and building workers from Melbourne followed suit. Instead of going to work, they marched from the University of Melbourne to Parliament House, demanding an eight-hour day. Their march of protest was a success as well. Not only did they achieve the eight-hour day, but they did it with no loss of pay.

However, it took a few more decades of campaigning to achieve the eight-hour day nationally. The Victorian Eight Hours Act was passed in 1916, and other states and territories didn’t reduce hours for workers until the 1920s. Moreover, workers still had to work a six-day week. The 40-hour five-day working week was approved nationally in 1948.

Labour Day is a public holiday in eight states and territories of Australia. Its dates vary between states and territories. In the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and New South Wales, it is the first Monday in October. Western Australia celebrates it on the first Monday of March, while in Tasmania and Victoria, it is the second Monday of March. Finally, Labour Day in the Northern Territory and Queensland occurs on the first Monday in May.

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Labour Day in Australia, holidays in Australia, public holidays, Australian labor movement