On January 26, 1788 the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip arrived at Sidney Cove in Australia and claimed the land for Great Britain. The First Fleet was made up mostly of prisoners who established a penal colony in Australia.
The 26th was celebrated early on as the anniversary of the landing date of the First Fleet. For the first 100 years the day was celebrated mostly by people in New South Wales. Other colonies had their own foundation days that they celebrated.
In 1888, one hundred years after the First Fleet landed, all of the colony capitals but Adelaide celebrated the day as Anniversary Day. By 1935 all the states celebrated the 26th as Anniversary Day.
In 1946 the day was renamed to Australia Day.
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