All About Australia’s Bank Holidays

Here in Australia it is the start of another long weekend, just as it is in England. So it is time for us all to kick back and relax.

Time to Relax

Time to Relax

My birthday is in the first week of May and when I lived in England, it became a tradition of mine to have a barbecue on the May Day bank holiday Monday. The strange thing was, I always got good weather for it. As you know, good weather in England is never a given.

So to consistently get good weather so early in May was quite an achievement. My barbecue invites would always go out with the words “weather guaranteed” and sure as eggs are eggs, we always got “weather”. But fortunately, always sunny weather.

There was one barbecue and I believe it may have been 2007, when leading up to the bank holiday we had nothing but thick grey clouds and non-stop rain. I think the rain started on Thursday and was still going strong on the Sunday before my barbecue. Everybody coming was convinced I’d finally lose my sunny weather streak.

On the Monday of the barbecue the rain continued hard. At two o’clock in the afternoon it was still raining and the barbecue was set to start at three. Amazingly, just before three o’clock, the rain stopped, the clouds parted for the first time in four days and from one small area the sun shone through.

This led to rumours that I, ahem, controlled the weather. Now that I have emigrated to Australia, my sunny streak in the UK remains intact, and controlling the weather here is a lot easier.

So it won’t surprise you to know that I’m having a barbecue (did you read my barbecue tips ?) on Monday. I expected it to be hot and sunny. But I have to say I was both very surprised and pleased when I discovered last year that they celebrate May Day bank holiday here too. So today I decided to look into why it is celebrated. What I found out was quite surprising.

In the UK, May Day was traditionally a spring festival to celebrate the arrival of warmer weather. More recently it has been associated with Labour day. Well it’s certainly not spring here in Australia, so what’s the celebration?

Bank Holidays in Australia

This was the surprise. Each of the states in Australia celebrate different bank holiday Mondays. It is only in Queensland and Northern Territory that the first Monday in May is a bank holiday. Luckily for me I live in Queensland. In Northern Territory it is simply called May Day. But here in Queensland and it is called Labour Day.

All the other states, except Tasmania, also celebrate Labour Day. But three of them have chosen October 5th, one March 2nd and the other one March 9th. That got me wondering why Tasmania does not celebrate Labour Day. But then I noticed something else.

Western Australia has 10 bank holidays a year, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have 11. The ACT has 12. Northern Territory has 16. Now, Tasmania, the only state not to celebrate Labour Day, has 21 bank holidays a year.

Wow! Tasmania is the place to be.

Well it’s not actually, for two reasons. First, the climate is more like England’s than Australia’s. Secondly, on closer inspection, 10 of their bank holidays are regional. So if you were to choose your region of Tasmania carefully, you may just get 13 or 14 bank holidays. But in order to enjoy those extra days off, you will probably need to buy a bobble hat and some gloves.

Five of Northern Territory’s bank holidays also turned out to be regional, so you won’t get too many extra days up there either. But you also won’t need the bobble hat.

And England? England only have eight bank holidays a year. For any of you who are still on the fence, surely that must be the deciding factor. I bet you are all now saying “That’s it! I have just got to move to Australia”.

Have a great weekend, wherever you are.

Update: April 2015

I am indebted to Frank A Gilling for pointing out something (see his comment below) that is now plainly obvious to me but of which I wasn’t aware when I wrote this post back in 2009. The thing is, Australians don’t call them ‘bank holidays’ or ‘bank holiday Mondays’.

They are public holidays.

‘Bank holiday’ is mainly a UK expression, and it means, you guessed it, a public holiday. So whenever you see the term ‘bank holiday’ in this article, you can substitute ‘public holiday’, unless you’re from the UK in which case you’d probably be happy to leave it as it is.

Thanks again Frank for clearing that up.


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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Frank A Gilling April 11, 2015, 9:11 am |

    Hi Bob. Little by little I am still reading your posts. When you wrote this post you were a newby, dare I say, an apprentice Aussie. By the way have you passed your Australian entrance exam yet? Sorry to be a pain Bob but there is only one BANK HOLIDAY in Australia. That bank holiday is the day the banks close and have a holiday but everybody else continues to work. All other holidays such as Australia Day, Christmas Day, Good Friday etc are named as such. The mere fact that most businesses are closed, including the banks, does not make it a bank holiday. Strictly speaking it is a PUBLIC HOLIDAY and are shown that way on all calendars, they are not classed as Bank Holidays. Goodness fancy being a banker and having lots of holidays during the year while everybody else works.. By the way Queensland also has regional holidays known as SHOW DAY. Each district celebrates a public holiday – SHOW DAY – at different times, usually because the SHOW (a sort of FAIR) happens to be happening on that day.
    OK Bob back to my earlier question about passing the Australian Entrance exam, did you also know you have to choose a side to identify with a certain state? For example to be a real Queenslander you have to verbally support the Queensland State of Origin Rugby League Team when they play New South Wales. Of course we have lots of states but only Queensland and New South Wales battle it out on the Rugby League field while the remaining states sit back and wish they had a similar iconic game.
    Goodonyerbobforhavingago. Any time you want clarification on anything Oz just let me know. BTW Lets Tork Stryne and and get everything written down by Afflabeck Lauder.Next time you have a barbecue let me know as I do a great Baked Necks.

    • BobinOz April 11, 2015, 9:09 pm |

      Oh my word Frank A Gilling, I really could have done with being your apprentice way back, but I’ve come on in leaps and bounds in the 7 or so years I’ve been here.

      I’ve been kicking every kick and feeling every crunching tackle and illegal punch of our fantastic State of Origin games, down the pub of course, for many years.

      I’ve written several posts on it.

      I’ve also written about Show Days and listed the names and dates of them for every major city.

      As for the bank holiday thing, my bad, it’s really a UK expression, but I think I can be forgiven because at the time my target audience was people in the UK looking to move to Aus. These days my website is also read by many Aussies, just like yourself Frank, which is something I both love and am very proud of.

      So I have tried to adjust how I speak these days, but for sure, going forward, if I get stuck, you are going to be the first bloke I call 🙂

      Cheers mate, and good on ya too.


  • Kamma October 3, 2013, 1:47 am |

    You, uh, left out South Australia. In the counting of the bank holidays, that is. Just thought you’d like to know.

    • BobinOz October 3, 2013, 11:04 pm |

      Dang! I’m sure I counted them all up on my fingers and thumbs before posting this article, but it seems you are right, I have missed off South Australia.

      Sorry, and well spotted 🙂

  • Stephanie July 28, 2013, 9:06 am |

    Hi Bob,
    What would you say are the total number of holidays and breaks year long – especially compared to the U.S. if you happen to know?

    • BobinOz July 29, 2013, 2:31 pm |

      I don’t know anything about US bank holidays, but I do list the number of bank holidays in each state here in Australia in the article above, it’s basically between 10 to 16.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Liam October 22, 2012, 7:16 pm |

    Hi Bob,
    Just as a side note, I think that Eight Hours Day in Tasmania is just another name for Labour Day, as Labour Day celebrates the restriction of work days to eight hours sometime in the 19th Century.

    • BobinOz October 22, 2012, 9:39 pm |

      Ah, that makes sense, thank you Liam for pointing that out.

  • BobinOz January 31, 2011, 12:50 pm |

    No, not at all. I like looking at the old posts too, I forgot I used to have those trainers.

    Yes, I think they all have a name and most of them are on Mondays, but some are not. Australia Day is always on 26 January, whatever day that turns out to be.

    Some of the names are pretty good, Northern Territory has Picnic Day and Tassie has Eight Hours Day. We have a few ‘Cup” days, Melbourne Cup, Adelaide Cup, that sort of thing.

    I could go on, but then I be here all day!

  • Dave January 29, 2011, 12:01 am |

    Sorry to be dredging up old posts, but I do enjoy your writing. So a “Bank Holiday” is a Friday or Monday when all is closed ? Do they name these holidays ie; Veterans day, Independence Day (oops, sorry (insert smiley face here))? So just about every month you get a 3 day weekend plus your regular holiday. Nice……

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