May Day

May Day Quick Facts - AU

AKA NameInternational Worker's Day, Labour Day
HashtagsCompiled on#MayDay
Related Hashtags#AusPol
2024 Date1 May 2024
2025 Date1 May 2025

May Day

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May Day History

May Day serves as an opportunity for communities and organisations to demonstrate improved conditions and rights for workers. This day celebrates workers' rights which originated from the struggle for an eight-hour working day. Established by the Second International, an organisation of socialist and labour parties, in 1889, it Key themes of the day include unity, equality, and human rights, with May Day embodying a robust spirit of solidarity among workers worldwide.

May Day's history in Australia dates back to the 1850s when stonemasons in Sydney stopped work in support of an eight-hour workday. This protest led to the formal recognition of eight-hour working day legislation in 1856, making Australia home to one of the world's first labour movements to achieve this milestone. Today, May Day remains important to Australians, not only for its historical significance but for its ongoing relevance to workers' rights and labour conditions in the country.

Each year, Australians observe May Day with numerous events including marches, rallies, and community events orchestrated by trade unions and labour organisations. East Sydney is historically known to host an annual May Day march, which is attended by thousands of workers and their families. In the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and certain parts of Western Australia, the Labour Day public holiday typically observed on the first Monday in October serves as their official celebration of May Day, tying in closely to the theme of worker's rights and the ongoing struggle for fair working conditions.

Facts about May Day

  • May Day is also recognized as International Worker's Day, or Labor Day. This day commemorates workers rights and the labor movement. One popular cause that this day commemorates is the eight-hour workday.
  • In France, it is customary to give a sweet smelling flower called the spring of lily of the valley (a symbol of springtime) on May 1st. The tradition started in 1561 when King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm.
  • May Day is particularly linked to the fight for an 8-hour working day. The campaign for this cause began in Australia in the 1850s.
  • In many places in Australia, the day has also come to include recognition of traditional Aboriginal ownership of the land, reflecting a growing alliance between workers' rights and Indigenous rights movements.

Top things to do in Australia for May Day

  • Dance around a Maypole. Decorate a tall pole with garlands of flowers and ribbons. Have a group of friends each take a ribbon and dance around the pole, interweaving the ribbons to form a braided affect. The braid can be undone by retracing one's steps.
  • Have a picnic outdoors in the sunshine.
  • Attend the May Day march in Port Kembla. This is a traditional event for trade unions and labour organizations to advocate for workers' rights and social justice
  • Attend the May Day March and Rally in Melbourne. The rally is organized by the Victorian Trades Hall Council. The event features speeches from union leaders and politicians, as well as a march through the city streets.

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