This Monday, 11 June, is the public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday. Australia’s states and territories celebrate it on the second Monday in June with two exceptions. The state of Western Australia celebrates the public holiday on 24 September, while Queensland waits until 1 October.
The holiday is celebrated because Australia is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The official head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, the Monarch of the Realms. She is also the head of state of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and many other countries and territories. Crowned in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II is now the longest reigning British monarch in history.
I discovered that Queen Elizabeth’s real birthday is April 21, 1926. If her birthday is in April, then why do we celebrate in June? History provides the answer.
In 1788, Australia celebrated for the first time a public holiday to mark the Monarch's Birthday on King George III’s birthday. The holiday continued to be celebrated on the actual date of the monarch’s birthday until 1936, when King George V, Elizabeth’s grandfather, died. His birthday was 3 June and since then the holiday has been celebrated in early June.
While tradition seems to account for the June date, I’ve also read speculation that celebrating on the Queen’s actual birthday would place the holiday too close to Easter and ANZAC Day.
The Queen’s Birthday is celebrated with sporting events, including an Australian Football League (AFL) game played between the Collingwood Magpies and the Melbourne Demons at the Melbourne Cricket Club. Public fireworks displays and parades are also part of the festivities. In Canberra, the Royal Military Academy at Duntroon holds the Queen’s Birthday Parade every year. The Queen’s Birthday honors list is released as well. This list includes the new members of the Order of Australia along with those who have received honors from the Australian government or the Queen. The Queen’s Birthday also marks the official start of the snow season in the mountains of New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and Tasmania.
This long holiday weekend features lots of things to see and do, and I’m looking forward to celebrating the Queen’s Birthday.