Australia Day is never one of the dates on the calendar that’s free from controversy.

But this year – though yes, January 26 remains a public holiday – an extra layer of tension is in play given the ongoing pressures of COVID-19 regulations.

Whether protest, mourning, commemoration or celebration, there will be restrictions on how you and yours can mark the day.

Below is our guide – current at time of publishing – to what the different states and territories are planning for January 26.

However, people should monitor restrictions and rules in their local area in the next two weeks.

Australia Day celebrations might look a bit different this year, but most states are going ahead despite COVID-19. (Jamila Toderas)

An Invasion Day protest is set to go ahead on January 26 in Sydney, despite protests being limited to 500 people under current regulations.

In a media release, organisers said the oppression facing First Nations communities was too urgent not to proceed with a mass protest demanding change, even if it breaches the regulations.

However, organisers have confirmed they will have a COVID-19 safety plan, including mandating mask wearing and social distancing.

Thousands marched through the streets of Melbourne last year to protest Australia Day and what the date means to Indigenous people. (Chris Hopkins)

“Unlike COVID, the virus of colonial racism that came to these lands in 1788 cannot be defeated by self-isolation or quarantine,” rally organiser and Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung and Dunghutti woman Elizabeth Jarrett said.

“We need to come together and fight back.”

Meanwhile, the New South Wales government is going ahead with celebrations of the day, but they will be restricted.

Tickets will be needed for the WugulOra morning ceremony, and for the Australia Day Live event on Circular Quay – which will be closed to the general public from 5pm on January 26.

Sydney Harbour’s traditional event roster will not be going ahead.

There are also restrictions on public and private gatherings in the state, which can be found here.

Premier Daniel Andrews recently warned people not to attend mass gatherings whether in support or protest of Australia/Invasion Day.

“It’s not about what you’re gathering for, it’s about, are you gathering in a safe way?” Mr Andrews said.

“It (the Invasion Day march) is not a seated event and judgement from public health team – not politicians – was it couldn’t be done safely.”

Afghani families celebrate Australia Day at Footscray Park on January 26, 2020. (Luis Enrique Ascui/The Age)

A COVID-safe Invasion Day dawn service will be going ahead, however, with tickets for attendees.

Outdoor gatherings in Melbourne are currently limited to 100 people, but exemptions can be granted for public events as long as organisers submit a COVID safe plan.

Everyone in attendance must be registered and they’re required to maintain social distance.

Events and award ceremonies are being held throughout Queensland on January 26, though restrictions are still in place in parts of the state.

Current restrictions in Greater Brisbane are set to ease on January 22.

Scenes like this one from last year at Bondi Beach will no doubt be rarer across Australia this year. (Steven Siewert)

There are at this point limits in place for gatherings, businesses and venues, with face masks to be worn in most indoor spaces.

Queensland’s Australia Day events catalogue can be found here.

Western Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions are famously minimal, providing you’re not trying to cross the border.

Residents are subject to the two-square metre rule and there are capacity limits in place for the state’s major venues.

However, gatherings and events will be taking place across the state – see here.

The Marshall government has a number of border restrictions and internal restrictions in place, including gathering limits, the two-square-metre rule, and restrictions on aged care visits.

However, standing drinks and entertainment venues are both open to the state, and South Australians have a number of options for Australia Day events.

Indigenous dancers at the Australia Day ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney on January 26, 2020. (Isabella Porras/Sydney Morning Herald)

Pop-rock band Birds of Tokyo are headlining the state’s signature Aus Day In The Arena event in Adelaide, with limited tickets available to ensure the event is COVID-19 safe.

But market and food events are still on, and no booking is required.

Check out what’s happening here.

The NT has, appropriately enough, some of the most relaxed COVID-19 guidelines in the country after being able to successfully restrict community spread.

Events both commemorative and celebratory will be taking place from the Top End to Alice Springs and beyond on January 26.

Find out what’s in your area here.

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra and surrounds likewise has some looser restrictions, but events of more than 200 people will need to make sure they’re okay to proceed.

There are no limits on home gatherings, but people should maintain social distancing.

Kari singers Joshua Kalaw, Halle Pierson at the Australia Day 2021 program announcement at Sydney Opera House. 13th January 2021 Photo Louise Kennerley (Louise Kennerley)Canberra on January 26 of course is home to the Great Australian Picnic at Lake Burley Griffin, with a number of ticketed events available.For everything else you can get to, click here.

Broad restrictions are placed on Tasmanians – for example, “only” 100 people can attend a private home at any one time.

However, there are nonetheless limits in place for businesses, outdoor gatherings and the like, and it’s best to check what they are.You can see what events are on around the Apple Isle here.



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