Australia is one of the first countries in the world to welcome the New Year due to its proximity to the International Date Line.
New Year’s Day marks the start of a new year according to the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced to Australia by European settlers. It replaced the Julian calendar, which used a year that was slightly shorter than the solar year. Over time, the seasons moved out of line with their positions on the calendar. The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII on February 24, 1582. It was adopted immediately in some places such as Spain, Portugal and parts of Italy, but took hundreds of years before it was used throughout Europe. It was introduced in England in 1752.
The start of the year according to the Gregorian calendar is not the only New Year observed in Australia. Australia’s tax year begins on July 1 and the Asian lunar year starts on the second or third new moon after the December solstice, sometime between January 21 and February 20. The Hindu, Coptic, Jalali, Jewish and Islamic New Years are also celebrated in some communities.
Before the European settlers arrived in Australia, Indigenous Australians used a variety of methods to track the passing of the seasons. Some reflected patterns of weather conditions and the life cycle of different plants. The people of the Crocodile Islands of Arnhem Land for instance, recognize six seasons that are important in their ritual life, movements around the land and how they hunt. Since the timing of this type of event can vary from year to year, the relationship between these and the Gregorian calendar changes.
This type of calendar is important in maintaining the connection between Indigenous Australians and their land. The movement patterns of the stars are also important to many Indigenous Australians. They use this method to predict when certain plants are ready for harvesting or when they can supplement their diet with migratory birds.