Navigo Blog

Navigo’s HR Guide to Public Holidays in Australia & NZ

Written by Peter

Peter is Navigo's founder and Managing Director. Peter is passionate about building and running businesses, finding solutions to business process problems and new trends in HR Technology.

December 8, 2016

hot_cross_bunPublic holidays. Loved by employees. Hated by small business owners. And a constant point of contention for politicians, businesses and HR.

We’ve got different public holidays in each state of Australia, which is slightly different again to those in New Zealand.

Handy tools like Google Calendars can help you keep track of most of the important dates, but here’s the complete guide to the differences, similarities and origins of all of our public holidays (from 2016 onwards).

Labour Day

The day that occurs in different months for different states, Labour Day is always held on a Monday to give workers a long weekend.

Known as May Day in the Northern Territory and Eight Hours Day in Tasmania, the holiday originated as a way of recognising those who fought for fair working conditions in Australia and New Zealand and those who contribute to our economy.

When is labour day? March, May, or October, depending on the state.


Christmas Day/Boxing Day

Christmas, the Christian holiday based on the Roman Saturnalia festival, always takes place on December 25th.

Whilst South Australia makes Christmas Eve a public holiday too (from 7pm onwards), all of Australia and New Zealand recognise Boxing Day, the 26th of December a public holiday (originally a day when servants and tradesman received gifts from their bosses).

Boxing day is also famous for the “Boxing Day Sales”, one of the busiest retail days of the year.

When is Christmas Day/Boxing Day? December 25th and 26th, though if these dates fall on a weekend, the public holiday will be observed on the following weekday.


New Year’s Day

New Year’s Eve is typically a night of celebration, so many partying Aussies and Kiwis spend New Years Day recovering.

When is New Year’s Day? January 1st, though if this falls on a weekend the public holiday will be observed on the following weekday.


Australia Day

Unique to Australia, Australia Day marks the day the First Fleet arrived in Australia. Controversially named “Invasion Day” by some due to our country’s initially violent history between Aboriginal Australians and European Settlers, there are a number of awards and ceremonies that take place on Australia Day.

The holiday is usually celebrated with barbecues and cricket due to the time of year.

When is Australia Day? January 26th, though if this falls on a weekend the public holiday will be observed on the following weekday.


Good Friday/Easter Sunday

Another Christian holiday, Easter celebrates the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ, though most of the customs (and the date) were adopted from the pagan Eostre holiday.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, where many charitable fundraisers take place. Many Aussies and Kiwis refrain from eating meat on this day.

Easter Sunday, being a Sunday, is always observed on the Monday after Easter. Chocolate is a big part of most Easter celebrations.
When is Good Friday/Easter Sunday? The weekend after the first full moon that occurs after the March equinox. If that’s confusing, it’s always sometime in March or April.

Anzac Day

Celebrating Australian and New Zealand armed services personnel, both current and former, Anzac Day takes place on April 25th every year.

With a number of unique ceremonies, sporting events and parades to mark the event, many Aussies and Kiwis even travel over to Gallipoli for the Anzac Day dawn service.

When is Anzac Day? April 25th, though in the last few years, if this date falls on a weekend, the public holiday is not observed in many states.


Queen’s Birthday

The Queen’s Birthday has nothing to do with the Queen of England’s actual birthday, but it is supposed to be a celebration of our monarch nonetheless.

The Queen’s Birthday is always celebrated on a Monday, giving us a long weekend. Many sporting events line up with the Queen’s Birthday weekend.

When is the Queen’s Birthday? The second Monday of June for all of Australia and NZ, except for WA who celebrate it in September or October for WA (depending on the Governor’s choice).


State specific holidays


Canberra Day

Every March, those in the ACT celebrate the day Canberra was founded 103 years ago. There’s typically lots of ceremonies, shows and sporting events around Canberra Day

When is Canberra Day? The first Monday of March.

Family and Community Day

Because politicians need an extra day of rest, Family and Community Day is just an excuse for another long weekend. It has no historical or religious history.

When is Family and Community Day? The first Monday of the September/October School Holidays.



Picnic Day

A throwback to the railroad days of Australia, Picnic Day gives Northern Territory residents an additional long weekend in August to relax.

When is Picnic Day? The first Monday of August.



Ekka People’s Day

A day to go visit the Royal Queensland Show, Ekka People’s Day takes place on different days in different cities, depending on the local show times.

When is Ekka People’s Day? August.



Proclamation Day

Celebrating the day government was established in South Australia, the actual date moves to give South Australians an extra long Christmas break.

When is Proclamation Day? The first working day after Christmas.

March Public Holiday/Adelaide Cup Day

The main event of the March Public Holiday is the Adelaide Cup, a horse race. For those not into horse racing, the holiday provides South Australians with another long weekend.

When is the March Public Holiday? The second Monday of March.



Melbourne Cup Day

Whilst Melbourne’s horse racing carnival goes for at least a week, the big race is for the Melbourne cup. Many Victorians also have the Monday off for an extended weekend.

When is Melbourne Cup Day? The first Tuesday of November, though some regional areas celebrate on different days.


Grand Final Eve

A new holiday, the Grand Final Eve takes place on the Friday before the AFL Grand Final. The day is marked by a parade in Melbourne, where the teams playing can wave to fans.

When is Grand Final Eve? The Friday before the AFL Grand Final, which is the first week in October/last week in September.



Western Australia Day

WA Day, formerly known as Foundation Day, celebrates the founding of the Swan River Colony with a long weekend.

When is Western Australia Day? The first Monday of June.


New Zealand Specific Holidays

Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day celebrates the day the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed by Maori Chiefs and the British Crown.

When is Waitangi Day? February 6th, though if this date falls on a weekend, the public holiday will be observed on the following weekday.


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