Why Do We Get a Public Holiday for Labour Day?

Labour Day

We all love a public holiday. It’s a day to kick and relax, catch up with friends or even just spend time on the lounge catching up on your favourite show – all without an ounce of guilt. Chores? You can do those on the actual weekend.

But, when it comes to one public holiday in particular, though, we know very little about the actual event we’re celebrating. In case you missed the headline, by the way, it’s Labour Day, we’re talking about here. Sure, you know it in the context of it being a public holiday, but what’s the history behind it? And why is it celebrated on different days in Australia?

Why Do We Celebrate Labour Day in Australia?

Well, the annual public holiday commemorates achievements of the Australian labour movement — particularly, the start of the eight-hour working day, a victory for workers in the 19th century.

The argument for the cap on working hours in a day — which previously saw workers on the job for 10-12 hours a day, six days a week — was that each person should have eight hours of labour, eight hours of recreation and eight hours of rest, an idea by British socialist Robert Owen.

Labour Day
Image: Getty Images

Fun fact: Labour Day was once also known as Eight Hours Day, and in the Northern Territory, was called May Day. Also, many union buildings around the country have the numbers ‘888’ on them, in support of the Eight Hours Movement.

Related: More Australian Companies Are Offering a Four Day Work Week as Global Trial Begins

Related: NZ Might Be Moving Towards a 4-Day Work Week — Thoughts?

Now that we know some background on Labour Day, let’s get to the important part — when do we get it as the day off?

When Is Labour Day 2022?

To make it confusing, Labour Day is celebrated on different dates in the states and territories — though always on a Monday.

In ACT, New South Wales and South Australia, Labour Day takes place on the first Monday in October. Meanwhile, in the NT and Queensland, the public holiday is on the first Monday in May. In Victoria and Tasmania, it’s on the second Monday in March. Finally, in Western Australia, Labour Day is on the first Monday in March.

Why is it celebrated on different dates, you ask? It’s because each state and territory achieved the eight-hour day on different days.

Do We Get a Public Holiday for Labour Day?

Yep, we do, though, again, the public holiday for Labour Day varies in the different states and territories. In 2022, Labour Day in WA is celebrated Monday, March 7. In Tassie and VIC, it’s Monday, March 14. In NT and QLD, it’s Monday, May 2 and in ACT, NSW and SA, it’s Monday, October 3.

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