Australia Day 2012

G’day mate. Today’s Australia Day, a day to celebrate anything and everything to do with Australia. That includes kangaroos, lamingtons (they’re cakes apparently) and vegemite.

The date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788. If you know your history, the British sent over ship after ship of convicts to colonise the country, and ever since Australia’s been this amazing place.

Today, Australia Day is all about national pride and it’s a national holiday to sit back and relax (if you’re an Aussie that is).

A number of awards are bestowed on Australia Day and Geoffrey Rush of Finding Nemo fame (who doesn’t seem very Australian) has just been named ‘Australian of the Year’, while Shane Warne (who seems very Australian) has just been named ‘Un-Australian of the Year’ for his reported cosmetic make-over.

In the cities of Cairns, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, there are a number of activities going on, such as free festivals and bands, and parties go long into the night.

Speaking rather arrogantly, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, said: "We say without a shred of arrogance or parochialism, that Australia's the best country in the world."

Australia day is a great time of year to be backpacking on a gap year, so if you’ve got any stories about what you’ve been up to on Australia Day to regale then post your comment below.

Andrew Tipp, backpacker and community manager, said: "I was staying near Newcastle on the East Coast during Australia Day. I went to a party on the beach; it was like a massive barbeque in the UK, except everyone was tanned and the sun was actually shining.

"I was surrounded by ebullient Aussies cloaked in flags and jingoism. It was an amazing day to experience. Out of all the places I've travelled to, I've never felt as much of a foreigner as in Australia on Australia Day."

So, now that you’re aware today’s Australia Day, break out your Aussie accent, slip on your thongs and boardies and enjoy!

If you’re thinking of heading down under on your gap year, then read our Australia country section for advice and information on backpacking and travelling. Also, read Louise Denton’s comprehensive guide to Australia

Oh, and if you're looking to get to Australia of free, then check out our competition which runs until the 31st January. Trust us, it's not one to miss...

Photo of Australia Day by Phil Whitehouse (via Creative Commons).