Giving Employees the Choice to Work on Australia Day is the Right Move

For First Nations Peoples, Australia Day marks the beginning of colonisation and the dispossession of their land, as well as the suffering and mistreatment of their ancestors at the hands of British colonisers. As a result, many Indigenous Australians view the holiday as a celebration of the invasion and colonisation of their land, and a reminder of the ongoing injustices and challenges they have faced and continue to face.

In recent years, we have witnessed a growing movement of governments and organisations to recognise and acknowledge the perspectives of Indigenous Australians on this day and to create a more inclusive and respectful celebration for all Australians.

One simple way that organisations can be more sensitive to First Nations Peoples on Australia Day is to consider alternative dates, or give employees a choice to work on January 26 and celebrate on a date that is not associated with the invasion and colonisation of Australia. The National Employment Standards provides a provision to allow employees and employers to substitute any public holiday for another day.

The University of Wollongong is one of the most recent organisations to join this group which includes Telstra, Deloitte, KPMG and Channel 10. The University released a statement acknowledging that January 26 was not a day of celebration for all Australians and announced, “That’s why, out of respect for all First Nations peoples, in January 2023 all fixed-term and permanent employees of the University will have the flexibility to work on January 26 instead of taking the day as a public holiday,”. If staff choose to work, they can substitute either January 27 or January 30 for the public holiday.

We at Project F recognise and respect the diverse cultures and histories of all Australians and are proud to announce we will also give our team the choice of working on Australia Day in order to be more inclusive and sensitive to the perspective of Indigenous Australians.

If you would like to learn more about why your company should consider changing the date and get support on how to do it, visit

Other ways that Australian companies can be more inclusive and sensitive to Indigenous Australians when celebrating Australia Day include:

Acknowledge the history and significance of the day for Indigenous Australians: Companies need to recognise and acknowledge the perspective of Indigenous Australians on Australia Day, which is often seen as a day of mourning and remembrance for the loss of their land and the suffering of their ancestors at the hands of British colonisers.

Engage with Indigenous communities and organisations: Companies can reach out to Indigenous communities and organisations to learn more about the history and significance of the day, and to seek guidance on how to respectfully and appropriately celebrate the day.

Plan inclusive events and activities: Companies can plan events and activities that celebrate the diversity and cultures of all Australians and that recognise and honour the contributions and achievements of Indigenous Australians.

Use the opportunity to promote reconciliation and awareness: Companies can use the opportunity of Australia Day to promote reconciliation and raise awareness about the ongoing challenges and issues faced by Indigenous Australians, such as the need for recognition of land rights and the lasting impact of colonisation.

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