NSW Election 2023: Premier & Labor Declare, If Elected, No Change Of Australia Day Date Until At Least March 2027

Last Wednesday at 12pm, during an hour-long debate on 7 News for the upcoming New South Wales election, both the NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet & Opposition Leader, Chris Minns, declared that if they or Labor respectively are elected during the next 4-year term of NSW Parliament, they will not try to change the date of Australia Day in New South Wales. Whilst this may seem local news to 1 state of Australia, the significance of their statements is important nationally due to the origins and nature of how Australia Day is celebrated.


Amelia Brace (7 News State Political Reporter/Debate Moderator): Mr Minns, would you change the date of Australia Day?

Chris Minns (Opposition Leader, Labor, District Of Kogarah): No, we’re not going to have any plans to do that.

Amelia Brace (7 News State Political Reporter/Debate Moderator): Mr Perrottet?

Dominic Perrottet (Premier, Coalition, Liberal, District Of Epping): No.

End Of Transcript

Above is the transcript of the moment in the debate when the date of Australia Day arose (49:23 mark). The language of both men is telling. Chris Minns, with more confidence, committed his party and for the full 4-year term to the position he stated by acknowledging “we’re not going to have any plans to do that” while Dominic, staying true to instructions given by the moderator, Amelia Brace, less than 23 seconds prior to keep their answers to “a simple yes or no”, gave a definite “no” but his was a more personal committment (due to the segment being about the individual politicians, not party), leaving the possibility open that a change of leadership in the Coalition may also bring a change in policy, though this is unlikely given their party is on the conservative side of politics.

The NSW Election comprises of 2 elections, 1 for the Legislative Assembly, the other for the Legislative Council. There are 42 seats in the Legislative Council, half of which are being contested at this election, where the whole state acts as 1 electoral district and is proportionally represented while the Legislative Assembly has 93 electoral districts, all being contested at the election, each district representing geographically 1/93rd of the New South Wales electorate population. If a political party wins 47 districts of the Legislative Assembly, the New South Wales Governor, Margaret Beazley, will ask the leader of that political party in the Legislative Assembly to form Government.

In the Legislative Council, regardless of the election result (as half of the seats are not up for re-election), the following political parties are already represented:

  • Coalition (8 seats, 5 Liberal, 3 Nationals),
  • Labor (7 seats),
  • Greens (2 seats),
  • One Nation (2 seats),
  • Shooters, Fishers & Farmers (1 seat) and,
  • Animal Justice (1 seat)

The final composition of the Legislative Assembly & Council will be important in determining nationally what the date of Australia Day is, as despite the date to be considered but some as the ‘national’ day of Australia, it is actually up to the 6 states to decide the date.

In NSW, it comes under the Public Holidays Act 2010, last amended on 13 January 2023 to rename the ‘Queen’s Birthday’ as the ‘King’s Birthday’ following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Federal Parliament only has the power to control the date of public holidays in relation to ‘conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State’ by Section 51 subsection (35) of the Australian Constitution Of Australia. This is currently dealt with under the Fair Work Act 2009. However, the Federal Parliament already do control the date for the territories under Section 122 of the Australian Constitution (Government of Territories).

While the Federal Parliament can change the date for territories and for workplace relations purposes and while all other states can independently change the date, given it is supposed to be a national day, a nation-wide change is required to keep unity on what is already a very divisive date. NSW holds significant political sway on the date as the date of Australia Day is currently on January 26, which was chosen to commemorate the 1788 landing of the 1st Fleet at Sydney Cove, which is in NSW. It should be pointed out that the raising of the Union Jack & the proclamation of the penal colony of NSW took place nearly 2 weeks later on the 7th of February.

Australia could place control of public holidays under the Australian Parliament if a constitutional referendum was held to alter the constitution to give the Australian Parliament that power though. But until that happens, if it does, if NSW does not want the date changed, it will put pressure on the other states to maintain the status quo. The Federal Parliament does hold nearly equal political influence but as the states control the date, they need the cooperation of NSW and with both the Premier & Labor saying they will not change the date of Australia Day in NSW if elected, this will likely mean the date will not change until March 2027 at the earliest, which is when the next NSW election will be held due to fixed 4-year terms.

However, an early election can be called by the NSW Governor:

  • at any time under established constitutional convention or,
  • if the budget is failed to be passed by the Legislative Assembly or,
  • if a no-confidence vote (with 3 days’ notice) succeeds in the Legislative Assembly & no confidence votes pass in the next 8 days in the Legislative Assembly or,
  • within 2 months of term expiration if the legislated election date is ‘inconvenient’

However, 4 years is a long time and in the past year, the public opinion on the date swayed significantly to ‘change’ with many high-profile businesses such as supermarket giant Woolworths and the Federal Government allowing employees to decide when to take their ‘Australia Day’ public holiday.

This followed the Chief Executive Officer of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Yuseph Deen, writing in December 2022 to the Commonwealth Employment Minister, Tony Burke & the NSW Employee Relations Minister as well as major Australian Stock Exchange companies to provide employees with this option.

We believe the business community can lead the way and make a stance by allowing employees the choice and the flexibility and instead taking the day off at a mutually agreeable time.

Many businesses, big and small, have already taken the lead. At NSW Aboriginal Land Council, we gave our staff this option last year and we’re calling on you to do the same.

This approach allows businesses to act in a way that reflects their principles, while also sending a statement to all levels of Government. Instead of another year of fuelling hatred and division, we are making the changes that are needed by honouring the world’s oldest living culture.

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council Chief Executive Officer, Yuseph Deen

With such a significant shift in public opinion in the space of a year and despite it only being an ‘option’ so far, with momentum growing every year to ‘change’, the position of Labor & the Premier, as stated in the debate, is a surprise given the 4-year commitment and the fact that the economics of allowing employees to choose the date they celebrate ‘Australia Day’ will eventually cause an economic mess.

Whilst providing employees the option to work on January 26 provides that date more economic security, the alternate date the employees choose to mark the public holiday, whatever it is (though likely sometime else around that time period) might mean there will eventually be 1 day of the year when there is a lack of employees running essential services and selling essential products at shops despite people needing these things because they are on holiday like fuel & transportation services.

While this may be not a problem currently, the more people choosing a day other than January 26 to celebrate Australia Day, the increasing lack of certainty of when employers or the Government will have employees to operate essential services or sell essential products will eventually cause the political pressure to be overwhelmed if the Parliament is still blind to the obvious public opinion at that late stage, which again makes the Premier & Labor’s decision to commit for 4 years to be very risky, let alone surprising.

If the Parliament still refuses to change the date and employers run out of employees to operate essential services and sell essential items on that 1 unknown day of the year just mentioned, employers may have to make the unethical but Parliament-forced decision to ask some of their employees to take their public holiday on January 26, which could lead to not just the most significant Survival/Invasion Day protests in history but one of the largest industrial relations disputes in Australian history.

The date of Australia Day, January 26, is controversial as it marks the beginning of the loss of full sovereignty and self-determination for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people & nations with the landing of the British Empire’s 1st Fleet at Sydney Cove. More about the date’s controversy can be found at the bottom of our 2019 article speculating the rise of ‘Australia Day In Sydney’ as a ‘Sydney Spectacular’ here.

Recently, people have claimed that 26 January was chosen to mark the anniversary of the 1st day of Australian citizenship, 26 January 1949, rather than the anniversary of the 1st Fleet’s landing at Sydney Cove. However, this view ignores what the Minister For Information & Immigration, Arthur Calwell, said in his 2nd reading speech in 1948 that introduced the Nationality & Citizenship Bill that created Australian citizenship:

When this bill becomes an act, it will be proclaimed on Australia Day, the 26tb of January, 1949.

Minister For Information & Immigration, Arthur Calwell

In 1948 and in the present, ‘Australia Day’ was the national successor to New South Wales’ ‘1st Landing Day’ or ‘Anniversary Day’ public holiday that marked the anniversary of the 1st Fleet’s landing at Sydney Cove. Also, to reinforce the reason Arthur Calwell chose that date, between the 1930’s and 1987, ‘Australia Day’ was celebrated on the Monday during a long weekend near the 26th of January, which in 1949 was on Monday the 24th of January. Arthur Calwell, therefore, particularly wanted it Australian citizenship to begin on the exact anniversary of the 1st Fleet’s landing.

With the controversy and growing divide, debate and historical negationism, the decision of the Premier & Labor is a significant roadblock for the Indigenous people of Australia. In a statement to Sydney Spectaculars, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council said:

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is disappointed neither of the major political parties has committed during the NSW State election campaign to changing the date of Australia Day.

NSWALC strongly believes that momentum will continue to build to change the date of Australia Day, and we will continue to advocate for Australia Day to be held on a different date than January 26.

NSWALC believes the business community can show similar leadership and courage by taking a stand on this important issue.

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council

Every year we are sick of the divisive debate around celebrating Australia Day on January 26 – the day that represents the invasion and dispossession of Aboriginal lands, and the beginning of colonisation.

We know a growing number of Australians are also uncomfortable with celebrating Australia Day on January 26 and want a different day celebrated to reflect our inclusive society.

Councillor Danny Chapman, New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council Chair

In late 2023, in what will be the 40th year of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act, a federal referendum will also be held on whether to both recognise Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution & to add a First Nations Voice.

The NSW Election is already being contested on other matters relating to Sydney Spectaculars. Labor announced just before New Year’s Eve last year that, if elected, they will make all government-controlled Sydney NYE vantage points free of charge. The Premier responded to Labor’s announcement by saying it’s “simply embarrassing” and implied he will maintain the status quo. You can read more about that here.

The New South Wales Election is held on Saturday the 25th of March between 8am & 6pm. Pre-polls open tomorrow (Saturday the 18th of March) at 9am.

Sydney Spectaculars’ will be covering live the NSW State Election from 6pm AEDT, 25 March in rare coverage of a non-‘Sydney Spectacular’ event.

Natural Ideas This Vivid Sydney 2023

This is the 2nd part in a series on the media launch of Vivid Sydney 2023

Vivid Ideas 2023 will see the return of the Up Late series, the 2nd relocation of the historically main event, the Vivid Ideas Exchange, as well as the 2023 headline event: LIFE & MARS: The Future Of Human by renowed British author, Jeanette Winterson (pictured above).

The Up Late series that began last year returns in 2023 but at less venues with less events, roughly half the size. In 2022, 4 venues were included:

  • The Museum Of Contemporary Art (x 1 event),
  • The Australian National Maritime Museum (x 1 event),
  • Australian Museum (x 5 events) and,
  • Powerhouse Museum (x 3 events).

Only the latter two, the Australian Museum and the Powerhouse Museum are returning for 2023 with 2 & 3 events respectively.

The Australian Museum will host:

The Powerhouse Museum will host:

All the above events are held for 4 hours from 5pm (the 90-minute Australian Museum talks begin at 6:30pm). With the exception of Natural Wonder (whose entry price cannot yet be confirmed) all events are free with Australian Museum events also requiring registration (though seating is limited on a 1st-come, 1st-served basis)

Paradise Fair is about artist Yuki Kihara’s exhibition, Paradise Camp, while Natural Wonder is about how design can be inspired by nature. Similarly, Pearls Of Wisdom is about how food has shaped the Australian identity and cuisine.

Over at the Australian Museum, What Can We Learn From Nature? features ecologist, Tim Low, Vivid Light 2022 artist, Leila Jeffreys and spirtual teacher, David Gandleman discuss how the relationship between humans and the wider natural world can be mutually beneficial if you put your mind to it. If you are surprised by what you learn at that event, you’ll be surprised to hear Australian First Nations people have doing that for millennia so check out their perspective at Connection To Country. That’s the Up Late series.

In 2023, the historically main event of Vivid Ideas, the Vivid Ideas Exchange, will relocate to the Telstra Customer Insights Centre at 400 George Street. After being at the Museum Of Contemporary Act since inception, the Exchange relocated to the University Of Technology Sydney in 2022 and has relocated again in 2023 & has shrunk to a 3rd of its size since last year, now hosting 20 sessions. The 2023 events are below:

The above events’ prices vary between events but most are no more than $30. Some free events require registration.

The headline event, though, of Vivid Ideas 2023 is LIFE & MARS: The Future Of Human. Held by renowed British author, Jeanette Winterson, in this event, through humour, she will reflect on philosophical questions to help us understand nature. This event will be held at Sydney Town Hall for one-night only on Saturday 3 June for 75 minutes at 4pm (Doors open at 3:15pm) & costs $58-$68.

The event will begin with an address by Jeanette Winterson before an interview is conducted with her by writer-broadcaster, Richard Fidler.

That’s Vivid Ideas 2023 – an event to question nature by exploring new ideas of nature.

Vivid Ideas 2023 challenges our ‘natural’ ways of thinking, whether by shining a spotlight on underrepresented communities, offering cultural counterpoints to the mainstream, or creating one-of-a-kind immersive experiences.

Bringing together the world’s brightest minds and creative leaders, Vivid Ideas will ask difficult questions, feature talks from global storytellers and creative minds and allow audiences to challenge the status quo, explore human nature and ask: what can we learn from nature? Join us at Vivid Ideas and be part of the conversation.

Vivid Ideas Curator, Tory Loudon

This is the 2nd part in a series on the media launch of Vivid Sydney 2023. Next part will be about the ‘Vivid Music’ 2023 program including Vivid LIVE.

Vivid Sydney 2023 Cooks Up Biggest Expansion Ever…Naturally

This is the 1st part in a series on the media launch of Vivid Sydney 2023

Vivid Sydney today launched its 2023 edition, to be held between Friday May 26 and Saturday 17 June, with a theme of Naturally (inspired by mother nature with reflection after the COVID-19 pandemic started) and the biggest expansion of its event since its inaugural edition in 2009 with the addition of a Food pillar.

For $99 an hour at the museum & lookout atop the south-eastern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, renowned chef, Luke Mangan, will serve a cheese box with Riverina-produced Shiraz (in a small, reusable, sealed cup to protect the pylon) as you take in the spectacular views of Vivid Light around Circular Quay accompanied by disc jockeys’ mixes in Light Up Your Senses At The Pylon. The lookout and museum has never opened during Vivid Light until now. This adults-only Food experience will only operate between Thursday and Sunday each night during Vivid between 5:45pm & 9:45pm and has a very limited capacity of 50 people per hour so book your tickets as soon as possible! But note, the climb to the lookout and museum consists of 200 steps & has no lift.

While over at Barangaroo’s The Cutaway will be Fire Kitchen – a barbie like no other that sees the best of Sydney dining meet the world’s best pit barbequers. Each night, watch them take to the coals while you enjoy the finished exclusive dishes that have the best of what Sydney has to offer added. There are also live demonstrations.

Returning in 2023 is the sell-out test-run of Vivid Food: The Dinner. Held on June 3 at 6:30pm in The Ivy Ballroom, this 4-hour adults-only dinner is hosted by Eddie Perfect, prepared by Ben Greeno & Danielle Alvarez and features musical performances by Montaigne, Julian Belbachir, Eddie Perfect and more! Themed around the concept of ‘rewilding’, The Dinner will feature New South Wales’ seasonal produce along with paired wines. Tickets are on sale until 4:30pm 1 June or until sold out & a minimum of 2 seats have to be purchased with a maximum of a table of 10 with each seat at a table costing about $295.

 Chefs Ben Greeno and Danielle Alvarez
Photograph: Vivid Sydney

Also new is The Residence, where a currently secret iconic Sydney diner along the Light Walk will host an also currently secret world famous chef for 2 weeks. There is also the new but similar Chef Series. The main differences are it is at multiple restaurants & that international chefs are paired with a Sydney chef to create a menu, unique each night of Vivid, that represents themselves & the relationship between their 2 countries.

Also taking over Sydney venues is The House of Naturalia & HERE NOW. Co-curated by drinks journalist and P&V Wine and Liquor Merchants co-founder Mike Bennie and acclaimed farmer and restaurateur Palisa Anderson, the latter is an adults-only 6-hour party beginning at 3pm at Macquarie Place Park, which has masterclasses that mix food & wine with music & art. Tickets cost $57 and include 1 drink token for basement bar, Mary’s Underground. The former is at Barangaroo House and will contain at Rekodo Restaurant & Vinyl Bar, a custom menu (see below) by head chef, Tara Chua, as well as disc jockeys Frank Booker, Jnett & Queen Bee, while at the Smoke Rooftop & House Bar, a custom sustainable cocktail menu will be the star. Reservations required.

The House Of Naturalia: Rekodo Resturant & Vinyl Bar Custom Menu

  • PACIFIC OYSTERS (persimmon vinaigrette) 
  • DUCK SPRING ROLLS (mandarin sweet + sour)
  • PASSIONFRUIT (yuzu mousse + shiso)
Barangaroo House
Photograph: Vivid Sydney

Lastly for 5 hours after 5pm on June 16 will see the return of the Carriageworks Night Market. Curated by Australia’s leading sustainable chef, Matt Stone, the Market will feature food demonstrations. Tickets, costing about $20 go on pre-sale at 9am Wednesday 15 March. If you want to stay at Ace Hotel Sydney and TFE Hotels, use the codewords ‘CCWORKS’ and ‘TH15555894’ respectively to get a 15% room rate discount during Vivid Sydney.

Carriageworks Night Market
Photograph: Vivid Sydney

All Vivid Food events will also contain a mixture of ‘light, music & ideas’ to round out the Vivid Sydney experience and so you do not miss out on the rest of what Vivid has to offer! The 2023 charity partner of Vivid Sydney is World Wildlife Fund.

Vivid Sydney is the original festival of light, art and culture. 2023 is the 13th time it has been staged and so it has naturally evolved over time to ensure that it stays relevant to the creative industries and what that means to people today.

We are truly proud of this year’s program. We have raised the bar on the size and scale of the events and activated new parts of the city. Our line-up features more diverse talent across more industries.

There are world-firsts and festival-firsts, and both free and ticketed events to make the festival accessible to everyone. Audiences should be prepared to be blown away by the calibre of talent and a program that has been inspired by the beauty and diversity of nature.

Vivid Sydney’s 2023 program is a celebration of authenticity, an invitation to connect, and a chance to create. You do not want to miss Vivid Sydney 2023.

Vivid Sydney Director, Gill Minervini

Each year visitors and Sydneysiders immerse themselves in the program and enjoy the incredible activations of the talented creatives who make the festival so special.

Last year Sydney welcomed a record 2.58 million attendees who injected $119 million into the NSW visitor economy across the festival footprint. It is our expectation that, with its exciting new program and more international travellers returning to our shores, Vivid Sydney 2023 will elevate the experience for our visitors and deliver even more visitor expenditure to the NSW economy.

Destination New South Wales Chief Executive Officer, Steve Cox

This is the 1st part in a series on the media launch of Vivid Sydney 2023. Next part will be about the ‘Vivid Ideas’ 2023 program.

Sydney Opera House Welcomes In Year Of The Rabbit & Cat With 10th Anniversary Illumination

Last night from 8:40pm, the Sydney Opera House was lit up red in its annual traditional illumination to celebrate Lunar New Year.

Red is chosen as it is regarded as a symbol of good fortune and luck.

First lit up in red in February 2013 for Chinese New Year, the illumination’s presence saw the City Of Sydney’s Chinese New Year celebration, which had started in 1996, expand, peaking in 2017 with the included additions of a Sydney Harbour Bridge red (pink as well in 2019) illumination amongst other city landmarks and a fireworks display in Circular Quay to coincide with the beginning of the illuminations. The event was renamed Sydney Lunar Festival in 2019, to take into account non-Chinese celebrations of Lunar New Year & the expansion was suddenly dropped in 2020 and is now held at just below its pre-2013 scale, which it has been ever since. However, the Sydney Opera House red illumination, which is independent of the City Of Sydney event, remains. Lunar New Year in Sydney, nevertheless, was and still is the biggest celebration of the event outside of Asia – a feat that should not be ignored.

Lunar New Year last 15 days from the 1st new moon of the lunar calendar until the 2nd next full moon. The 2023 Lunar New Year celebration began on Sunday the 22nd of January and will end on Monday the 6th of February.

The NSW Government has been joining communities across the state to celebrate this significant cultural event for more than a decade.

While Lunar New Year is significant to many across the state, it also represents much of what we all stand & hope for in a new year, especially new beginnings.

To everyone celebrating the Lunar New Year, I wish you all prosperity, good health and fortune for the year ahead.

Dominic Perrottet, Premier Of NSW

You will be hard-pressed to find such rich diversity proudly championed and celebrated like it is in NSW.

It is about showing communities and the world that we welcome everyone and value our diversity.

I wish everyone a prosperous and happy Year of the Rabbit & for those from a Vietnamese background, a very happy Year of the Cat.

Mark Coure, Minister For Multiculturalism

Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? Is It Superman? No, It’s ‘The Other Superman’ At Australia Day LIVE 2023!

Australia Day In Sydney has announced their 2023 program and will see Australia’s Got Talent act The Other Superman doing a world-1st performance spinning high off a crane above Circular Quay in his wheelchair during Australia Day LIVE – the 2-hour finale concert, fireworks, projections & maritime spectacular held at that location.

The Other Superman‘s not-so-secret identity is Paul Nunnari, a silver medallist wheelchair racer at the 2000 Paralympic Summer Games in Sydney and Gunniess World Record holder for the ‘Most 360-degree rope rotations in a wheelchair hanging by one arm in 1 minute (team of two)’, which is 77 rotations!

Paul Nannari racing his wheelchair at the 2nd Paralympic Summer Games: Sydney 2000
Photograph: Aerion Aerial Entertainment Company

Normally, he performs at a minimum height of 6 metres but this time a crane is being used and we have no idea how high the crane is going to be but we assume it is going to be fairly high compared to his usual aerial acrobatics!

He is also a public speaker so there is a chance he may make a small speech at Australia Day LIVE.

Produced by the Australia Day Council of New South Wales (NSW) and the NSW Government and brought to you by Destination NSW and the National Australia Day Council, Australia Day LIVE will be held at Circular Quay & the Sydney Opera House between 7:30pm & 9:30pm AEDT and will be broadcast live on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Television (TV) & iView. Tickets, which were free, have already sold out on January 11 (same day tickets became available) for the concert at the Sydney Opera House. To attend in person, you will now need to find a vantage point around Circular Quay before it reaches capacity around 6:45pm AEDT. Pre-show entertainment begins at 6:30pm.

Australia Day LIVE will, once again, be creatively directed and hosted by John Foreman, joining co-hosts Casey Donovan, Jeremy Fernandez and new for 2023, co-host, Sirine Demachkie. They will lead you through a night of entertainment acts including:

  • Fireworks & projections on the Sydney Opera House
  • Fireworks from Circular Quay
  • A concert (detailed below)
  • A lit vessel parade
  • Jet-skiers
  • Fly-boarders
  • Koomurri dancers and,
  • Parachutists!

It is important to all of us to begin ‘Australia Day LIVE’ with a moment that looks at the Aboriginal perspective of Australia Day that celebrates artists from all over the country in different locations

Christine Anu is performing ‘My Island Home’, a song that was originally recorded by the ‘Warumpi Band’ in the ‘80s & has an incredible lineage in Indigenous culture, together with symphony orchestras from across the country.

William Barton, ‘Australia Day Live’ Creative Consultant & Performer

The evening concert, with its powerful performances and tributes, adds greater meaning to our national day & celebrates the Australian spirit.

‘Australia Day Live’ will celebrate artists from around each state and territory across the country, with several symphony orchestras collaborating on a mesmerising opening piece.

‘West Australian Symphony Orchestra’, ‘Queensland Symphony Orchestra’ and ‘Aussie Pops Orchestra’ will all come together to perform a stunning live rendition of ‘My Island Home’, sung by Christine Anu & her daughter Zipporah.

‘Australia Day LIVE’ Creative Director, John Foreman OAM 

All this non-musical entertainment will be synchronised to a medley of Australian hits and classics performed live by the following artists in addition to the already mentioned at the televised concert, backed up John Foreman’s Aussie Pops Orchestra:

  • Casey Donovan,
  • Dami Im,
  • Isaiah Firebrace,
  • Anthony Callea,
  • James Morrison,
  • William Barton,
  • Tim Campbell,
  • Darren Percival,
  • Emma Pask,
  • Mirusia and,
  • Emma Kavanagh

Dami Im will perform Hunters & Collectors rock song, Throw Your Arms Around Me, accompanied by the Fijian abattoir workers who volunteered and uplifted Lismore residents who suffered during the 2022 eastern Australian floods between February & April last year.

Before Australia Day LIVE, there is a still a day’s worth of entertainment beginning at 5:20am with Dawn Reflection – a projection on the western sails of the Sydney Opera House of a First Nations artwork. This year the artist is proud Kamilaroi artist, Rhonda Sampson and the artwork, for the 1st time, will remain a secret until 5:20am on the 26th of January!

This is followed at 7:30am with the hour-long WugulOra (‘1 Mob’) Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve, which will be it’s 20th anniversary! Televised on ABC TV & iView, the ceremony features Indigenous stories, musical & dance performances, speeches from dignitaries and local Indigenous people as well as a smoking ceremony.

2023 will be the 3rd year for the ‘Dawn Reflection’ which is an important part of starting the day where Aboriginal people are represented. It is a moment to reflect on what it means for this new dawn and reflect on what took place every day prior to 1788 and each day since.

It’s also 20 years of the Australia Day morning ceremony – ‘WugulOra’ is respectful in honouring those who have fallen, continue to suffer but is also about moving forward & how as a state and country we can do this with the First Nations.

Yvonne Weldon, Deputy Chair of the Australia Day Council Of NSW & the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

After these 2 significant Indigenous events, at 10:30am, in the middle of Sydney Harbour near Fort Denison, 4 Emerald-Class ferries containing community groups, charities & hundreds of displaced Ukrainians who now call Sydney home will race eastward around Shark Island before finishing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at around 11:20am in the annual Ferrython!

Following that, at 11:30am, will be the newest flagship Sydney Spectacular, the Salute To Australia, which you can read about here.

Between 12:45pm & 2pm, the Harbour Parade, a parade of vessels covered in Australian-themed decorations, will circle Sydney Harbour from either side of the northern Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons to Goat Island, back under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, past Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House & Fort Denison to Athol Bay near Taronga Zoo.

Between 10:30am & 4pm at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, will be a Mega Kidz Zone containing wheelchair basketball, an inflatable ninja obstacle course and a massive maze! Finishing at 4pm as well but beginning 30 minutes earlier at 10am on the Tallawoladah Lawns of the Museum Of Contemporary Art will be Surf Life Saving NSW with a lifesaver dress-up photo opportunity, educationary entertainment on the great work they do alongside with the Little Nippers to educate everyone about beach safety and other family-friendly activities.

All in all remember to reflect, respect and celebrate this Australia Day In Sydney!

‘Salute To Australia’ & ‘Navy Helicopter Flag Display’ Added As Flagship Sydney Spectaculars

Australia Day In Sydney has had more events added as ‘flagship’ Sydney Spectaculars with the Salute To Australia & Navy Helicopter Flag Display joining the 26th of January’s existing flagship Sydney Spectaculars, Dawn Reflection & Australia Day Live.

This all but brings a full day program of events of flagship Sydney Spectaculars at Australia Day In Sydney for the 1st time:

  • 5:20am to 5:50am: Dawn Reflection
  • 11:30am to 12:05pm: Salute To Australia
  • 12pm to 1:30pm: Navy Helicopter Flag Display
  • 7:30pm to 9:30pm: Australia Day Live

Salute To Australia is, primarily, a military salute. It began in 2010 as just an Australian Army 21-gun salute fired from just north of the Fleet Steps on the western side of Mrs Macquaries’ Point in The Domain into Farm Cove at 12pm to commemorate the Federation of Australia, which was its 99th anniversary at the time (Reminder: The actual Federation anniversary is on 1 January). An 180 metre exclusion zone is in place around the salute when the weapons are armed.

A 21-gun salute stems from the 1700’s when a foreign warship was about to enter a foreign port (let’s use Port Jackson as the example). Outside of the Heads, out of cannon range, which is about 5 kilometres from the coast, the foreign warship would fire each of its cannons, one at a time. As loading cannons is a time-consuming task, the ship was neutralised more after each succeeding shot and could be considered friendly. To check this, Port Jackson would fire 3 cannons for each cannon heard from the foreign warship. 3 bursts of fire were chosen due to superstitions that even-numbered cannon bursts would signal death. Given British ships at the time had 7 cannons, this made the total bursts of cannon fire, 21. Over the past 300 years, it evolved from a security measure, which became redundant in the 1950’s, to a symbol of peace between nations to a military salute (as well as a gesture of friendship between the military and who the salute is being performed for).

In 2011, the 21-gun salute was performed by the Australian Army’s 7th & 23rd Field Regiment Royal Australian Artillery, the latter who also performed it in 2012.

In 2014, the salute was expanded to include a Royal Australian Air Force flypast/handling display finale around Sydney Harbour and a Royal Australian Navy salute from a warship stopped in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is called a Procedure Alpha. Originating from the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, a Procedure Alpha involves nearly all sailors on the warship to be stationed at an external part of the ship of their choosing, evenly spaced apart & in full dress uniform. The inaugural saluting ship was Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Choules, a dock landing ship, where the Governor Of New South Wales (NSW) reviewed the salute. The 21-gun salute was also relocated in this edition to Milsons Point inside Bradfield Park underneath the north-eastern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it was the 1st edition to feature the words Salute To Australia in it’s name.

In 2015, a performance of the national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, by choirs placed around Sydney Harbour was added to the event. A once-off hat tip by the Royal Australian Navy & Australian Army personnel attending the event also occurred. In 2015 & 2016, 2 landing helicopter dock ships were the saluting ships: HMAS Canberra (which hosted numerous dignitaries) and HMAS Adelaide, which is larger (In fact, it is the Navy’s largest ever flagship).

In 2017, it’s timeslot was moved forward by 15 minutes to 11:45am to permanently include an address by the NSW Governor, who spoke from the saluting ship, which was HMAS Canberra that year & in 2018. A Welcome To Country and a speech from Indigenous Elder, Uncle Allen Madden, as well as a video about Australia’s newest citizens was included in 2017. The choirs, which included Tribal Warrior Choir & school choirs, were also now located solely at vantage points around Circular Quay (Hickson Road Reserve, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Sydney Opera House, Bradfield Park ), who performed Waratah, I Am Australian & Advance Australia Fair, the latter with iconic Australian singer, Tina Arena, which concluded with the aerial salute done that year by a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

In 2018, it’s timeslot was moved up by another 15 minutes to the current 11:30am slot and a performance of Bapa was added just for that edition. That year, over 500 school children participated in the choirs including 1 choir on the ship, Young Endeavour & 3 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets did the aerial salute, beginning the flypast in formation.

In 2019, a once-off radio broadcast & audio description (89.3FM) was added. Musical performances by The Royal Australian Navy Band and a smoking ceremony first appeared. HMAS Choules (where the NSW Governor was) & Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets were the saluting ship and aircraft (the latter, beginning in formation) in 2019 respectively while HMAS Canberra returned for the role in the 2020 edition.

Then COVID-19 arrived. The 2021 edition was unique in that it had its only television broadcast so far, was held at the later timeslot of 2pm with a shortened duration of 30 minutes and was held at the NSW Government House. Frontline workers were also invited to the 2021 edition, which also saw 2 permanent changes: specially-chosen new citizens were invited to the event & the national anthem was sung with a version in Eora language.

Last year’s edition was streamed on YouTube and is now held at Hickson Road Reserve, underneath the south-east pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (though the 21-gun salute is still held underneath the north-east pylon in Bradfield Park on Milsons’ Point) where the NSW Governor now makes their address. They are welcomed to the event with a Guard made up of Australian Army personnel, which they formally inspect before proceedings begin. A Welcome To Country now follows along with a speech, which in 2022, was about Patyegarang, Lieutenant William Dawes and the significance of the land & spoken by Clarence Slockee. A video about Australia’s newest citizens was also played after that speech before I Am Australian was sung by the now-sole choir, Monty Saint Angelo Mercy College Choir (which is now just located at Hickson Road Reserve) featuring Matthew Doyle playing the didgeridoo, which he also does during Advance Australia Fair, which was also accompanied by jet skiers, each holding, in turn, either the Australian National or Australian Aboriginal Flag. HMAS Paramatta, a frigate ship, was the saluting ship & the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II now does the aerial salute formation flypast and handling display finale, now complete with commentary (which was done in 2022 by Australian Air Commander Air Vice-Marshal V.J. Iervasi, though the event actually now concludes with a private, unaired citizenship ceremony.

As you can see, it is now a Spectacular event! As far as we can tell, the 2023 edition will be similar to 2022 though there will be only 2 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft performing the aerial salute. A YouTube broadcast has not been confirmed yet.

‘Navy Helicopter Flag Display’
Photograph: Australia Day In Sydney

The Navy Helicopter Flag Display was introduced last year as a 2-hour display from 11:30am, the start of Salute To Australia. The helicopter with flag in tow lifts off from HMAS Penguin navy base near Middle Head before exiting Sydney Harbour to travel to Palm Beach (For international readers, this is the backdrop for television soap opera, Home & Away) and back before travelling up & down Sydney Harbour and then south down the coast to the Shoalhaven River which it travels up to Nowra before landing at the nearby HMAS Albatross naval air station at 1:30pm. As far as we can tell, the 2023 edition will be similar, but it will run for 90 minutes from 12pm. This very likely will not be broadcast though it may make a cameo appearance during the potential Salute To Australia broadcast.

The 2023 edition of the Navy Helicopter Flag Display will also occur during the following other Australia Day In Sydney events:

However, these 3 events are not considered flagship Sydney Spectaculars.

It also means aviation-based Australia Day events in the following local governments will be focused on more by our site:

  • Northern Beaches Council
  • Municipality Of Woollahra
  • Waverly Council
  • City Of Randwick
  • Sutherland Shire
  • City Of Wollongong
  • City Of Shellharbour
  • Municipality Of Kiama
  • City Of Shoalhaven

The Municipality Of Kiama will be holding a helicopter flag display with the Australian National & Aboriginal Flags along their coastline at 10am & 3pm that day and the City Of Wollongong will be holding a flypast along it’s coastline at 5:45pm that day by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society but those aerial displays will not be considered as flagship Sydney Spectaculars as they are still COVID-19 pandemic responses.

Sydney Spectaculars will be providing coverage of the 2023 edition of Australia Day In Sydney and from that event on, we will also be considering military salutes on Sydney Harbour.

The Rationale

Why these events you ask?

With the addition of Wings Over Illawarra in October last year, major annual aerial displays are now considered and on Sydney Harbour, these usually occur only on the 26th of January. The 2023 edition only has 2 aerial displays that have been held before with a consistent history – the Navy Helicopter Flag Display and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II formation flypast salute and handling display segment of the Salute To Australia. The Salute To Australia, has, as detailed above, grown significantly over the years, particularly since 2014 and gathers the 2nd largest crowd during the day (The biggest crowd being for Australia Day Live). Also, we believe in the near future, aviation-based events such as drone shows will play a central role in Sydney Harbour events, as shown by the recent Elevate Sydney, Sydney Harbour’s first annual drone show and the southern hemisphere’s largest.

To acknowledge their history, growth, our site’s new ‘policy’ of considering aviation-based events & the future growth in such events, we have decided to designate Salute To Australia & the Navy Helicopter Flag Display as flagship Sydney Spectaculars.

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not occurred, this would have been announced a year ago for Salute To Australia.

What if I cannot attend the event?

The Salute To Australia last year was live streamed on YouTube. However, it has not been confirmed for 2023 yet so do not expect a live stream to appear on the ‘Watch LIVE’ page just yet. However, if prior to the event, they announce, confirm or on the event weekend, publish a live stream, we will promote it.

The Navy Helicopter Flag Display will very likely not be broadcast though it may make a cameo appearance during the potential Salute To Australia broadcast.

Australia prepare to be saluted SPECTACULARLY!

Vivid Sydney Wins Twice At 2022 Australian Event Awards

Vivid Sydney has won 2 awards at the 2022 Australian Event Awards held last November.

The event itself won ‘Best Public Event (National)’ beating the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, Adelaide Fringe, Tasting Australia & Parrtjima – A Festival In Light while the Technical Direction Company won ‘Best Technical Achievement’ for their work providing the projectors & the software to map the projections to the buildings, notably the Sydney Opera House.

The Technical Direction Company also beat LASERVISION for their work producing a “musical fountain square” for Vietnamese tourism destination, MerryLand Quy Nohn and Norwest Productions for their work at The Games Of The XXXIInd Olympiad: Tokyo 2020.

Vivid Sydney is a bright star on Sydney’s events calendar supporting the entire ecosystem of the state’s visitor economy during winter, from our creative industries to live entertainment and hospitality venues, accommodation providers and retailers.

Our aim is to be the premier events destination of the Asia Pacific and this internationally renowned, and celebrated, event is vital in realising this vision.

Ben Franklin, New South Wales Minister For Tourism & The Arts

Vivid Sydney was also nominated for ‘Best Cultural, Arts or Music Event (National)’ (but lost to BASS IN THE GRASS Music Festival) and ‘Australian Event Of The Year’ (but lost to AIME).

The Technical Direction Company & Destination New South Wales were both nominated but separately entered for ‘Best Achievement In Marketing Or Communication’ for their work on Vivid Sydney but lost out to the Northern Territory MAJOR EVENTS Company for their work on Parrtjima – A Festival in Light.

The Electric Canvas was also nominated for ‘Best Achievement In Design’ for their work on Vivid Reflections – a Vivid Sydney projection on the Central Station clock tower, which also was the ‘finale’ to the 2022 Light Walk but lost to Artists In Motion (who have worked previously for Vivid Sydney & Sydney New Year’s Eve) for their work at ‘Expo 2020 – Dubai: Connecting Minds, Creating The Future‘.

Vivid Sydney also recently ended up winning 14 medals at the 2022 International Festival & Events Association Pinnacle Awards.

The Vivid Sydney 2023 media launch will be held in March with the event to be held between 26 May & 17 June with a new Vivid Food program.

Sydney Elevates Water Ecological Sustainability

Just days after welcoming in 2023 with its first big NYE party since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sydney has welcomed its first annual drone show event – Elevate Sydney!

Held between January 3rd and January 7th, Elevate Sydney is an entertainment festival held on the Cahill Expressway but each night at 10:30pm, eyes looked skyward above Circular Quay for the Elevate Sydney Skyshow – the largest drone show in the Southern Hemisphere.

Elevate Sydney SkyShow 2023 Map
Map: Elevate Sydney

Containing 600 drones, the 5-minute drone show, with a theme of water & ecological sustainability, saw the creation of many images of sea creatures from Sydney Harbour led by an ‘anthromophic’ Benny the Seal. For international readers, Benny the Seal is a real seal who can be found occasionally sunbathing at the Sydney Opera House on Bennelong Point between Vivid Sydney & September.

Elevate Sydney was first held in the 1st 5 days of 2022 thus making the 2023 edition the first consequentially held drone show over Sydney Harbour. Drone shows made their debut on Sydney Harbour in 2016 as part of Vivid Sydney, when a then-world-record-breaking 100 drones took to the skies of Farm Cove as part of a world record attempt by Intel. The world record is now currently around 5000 drones – a record held by China.

5 and a half years later, drones finally returned to Sydney Harbour for the 1st edition of Elevate, when they set the Southern Hemisphere-record up to 500 and since then, 3 other drone shows have been held – another one at Vivid Sydney to promote the Paramount+ streaming service (which broke the Southern Hemisphere-record to the now-equal 600), The Everest Barrier Draw, Art Up, a nightly drone show to commemorate the re-opening of the Art Gallery Of New South Wales (NSW) over 9 nights in early December and 2 Christmas-themed shows – 1 at Noel Sydney, a new Christmas event and 1 at Darling Harbour – both held numerous times roughly in the week before Christmas.

Elevate is more than just a drone show though. The entertainment festival on the Cahill Expressway takes up most of the day, held in 3 sessions each for a capacity of 3000 people. Therefore, it is a free ticketed event. However, since the event begun last year, the 3000 tickets get snapped up fast. All sessions contain roaming entertainment and a ‘gate/wait party’ in the portion of The Domain immediately west of the northbound Cahill Expressway on-ramp for those who missed out on a ticket and are waiting for capacity to improve. This was introduced after controversy was ignited in the inaugural edition when ticketholders failed to show up (due to line-up changes and understandably, COVID-19) but failed to return the tickets despite organisers urging people to if they can’t make it.

It begins at 10am with the 2.5 hour Elevate Family (formerly Kids). This session is targeted at children aged under 13 and their parents with the 2022 edition’s session being bookended by live interactive performances of the Australian world sensation television series, Bluey. Hosted by Play School hosts, Michelle Lim Davidson & Matthew Backer, who also run their own twice-held daily event segment called Story Salad, other Elevate Family content includes Monski Mouse (a disc jockey for babies), The Gagliardies and Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo. This session was not held on the first event day as it was in 2022.

In 2022, Elevate Kids was held earlier and longer for 4 hours from 8am. Hosted by children’s entertainment personality, Justine Clarke, each day began with a wellness session by former Wiggles dancer, Lauren Hannaford, before Ready, Set, Dance & disc jockey Romeboy take the reins. Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium & everyday item musicians, Junkyard Beats round out the entertainment which are headlined on the first event day by Australian global sensation, The Wiggles, and by Simon Wiggle & Friends on the latter days. The latest Australian global sensation, Bluey, also appeared on the first 3 event days before the characters of Kangaroo Beach appeared in Bluey‘s place on the final day.

Back to 2023 and the next 2.5-hour session begun at 2:30pm and it is called Elevate Social. This consists of 2 75-minute electronic music and/or disc jockey sets. Headliners each day from 4th January were, in chronological order, Young Franco, Anna Lunoe, Kito & The Jungle Giants. They were supported, again in chronological order, by Running Touch, Harvey Sutherland, Touch Sensitive & Kinder.

In 2022, Elevate Social was a completely different event. It was 3-hour variety event held from 2pm called Elevate Arena. Hosted by comedian Joel Ozbourn, it begun with interviews, conducted by former Sydney NYE television broadcast co-host Stephanie Brantz, with sporting personalities. This was followed by performances by The Drummer Queens, The Hula Queen, DB Freestyle (a freestyle football act) and The Tap Pack. On the first 2 event days, Worlds Collide, a multi-cultural music band was the finale while in the latter 2 event days, it was Barrio Soul. Sporting personalities interviewed included:

  • NSW dragon boat racing champion, Andrew Wong (final event day),
  • Under 23 Australian road cycling champion, Emily Watts (2nd event day),
  • A-League soccer runner-up goalkeeper, Jada Mathyssen-Whyman (3rd event day)
  • Australian (Rules) Football League runner-up footballer, Tom McCartin (4th event day),
  • A-League soccer champion, Rhys Williams (2nd event day),
  • Matilda, Remy Siemsen (3rd event day),
  • Matilda, Emily Van Egmond (3rd event day),
    • 3-time Australian beach running champion, Ali Najem (2nd event day),
    • Rugby League World Cup silver medallist, Brian To’o (2nd event day),
    • FIBA World Cup silver medallist, Katie Ebzery (final event day),
    • Rugby World Cup silver medallist, Micheal Hooper (3rd event day),
    • Rugby League World Cup gold medallist, Tom Trbojevic (4th event day),
    • Cricket World Cup gold medallist, Ashleigh Gardner (2nd event day),
    • Cricket World Cup gold medallist, Brad Haddin (3rd event day),
    • 2-time World Netball Championship gold medallist, Kimberlee Green (final event day),
    • 2-time World Netball Championship gold medallist, Caitlin Bassett (4th event day),
    • 3-time Cricket World Cup gold medallist, Shane Watson (4th event day),
    • Paralympic silver medallist triathlete, Lauren Parker (final event day),
    • Olympic silver medallist diver, Melissa Wu (2nd event day),
    • Olympic silver medallist beach volleyballer, Mariafe Artacho del Solar (3rd event day),
    • Olympic silver medallist high jumper, Nicola McDermott (3rd event day),
    • 3-time Paralympic silver medallist rower, Erik Horrie (final event day),
  • 2-time Paralympic gold medallist wheelchair racer, Madison de Rozario (4th event day) and,
  • 5-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer, Emma McKeon (final event day).

The final, main session is at 8pm & last 3 hours. It is called Elevate Nights & unlike the other sessions, it is held every event day. Essentially, it is a nightly concert hosted by Sydney NYE concert television broadcast co-host, Zan Rowe. Headliners in 2023, in chronological order, are, Ya Girl Party B (2 sets), Spacey Jane, Amy Shark, The Veronicas and Sampa The Great. Supporting them are Client Liaison (1st event day), Thelma Plum & Ruby Fields (2nd event day), Mallrat & Becca Hatch (3rd event day), Betty Who & Drax Project (4th event day) and Northwest Party House & Wafia (final event day). All event days apart from the 1st one open with a house disc jockey.

Back in 2022, it started an hour earlier at 7pm (with the drone show being 30 minutes earlier at 10pm also to conclude the session) and was called Club Elevate. It was a slightly different event with theatre included with each night taking a different name (list below in chronological order):

  • Elevate First
  • Elevate Discotheque
  • Elevate Encore
  • Elevate Music
  • Elevate Sydney Final Night

As you can see above, they quickly ran out of unique names (Note: ‘First’ is a pun referencing both the first event night and First Nations) so it’s not surprising they stuck with a simple Elevate Nights label for all nights in 2023.

Elevate First begun with a Call To Country designed by Sydney NYE2008-2010 Creative Director, Rhoda Roberts, before performances were held by Indigenous artists, Electric Fields (support act) & Troy Casser-Daley (headliner).

Elevate Discotheque was headlined by Leo Sayer with support acts by Marcia Hines & Courtney Act, the latter who also acts as host. Elevate Encore is headlined by Lime Cordiale and supported by Peking Duk. Elevate Music was hosted by Triple J‘s Ebony Boadu and featured the following artists: BVT, CXLOE, Hauskey, L-FRESH the LION & Ngaiire, while Elevate Sydney Final Night was headlined by Tones & I, supported by Tim Minchin & hosted by Joel Ozborn after Courtney Act had to pull out.

One constant between the inaugural edition & the 2nd edition was that the drone show soundtrack was composed both times by DOBBY (Rhyan Clapham) featuring Uncle Matty Doyle. The 2023 soundtrack, which was available live online during the drone shows for the 1st time, also featured Kelsey Iris, who opened the soundtrack. All 3 artists are descendants of the Murruwarri people of north-western NSW.

The 2022 drone show had a generic theme of ‘Summer Sydney’ particularly as it was the first edition of the event. The 2022 event also had an augmented reality smartphone experience produced by Charles Clapshaw of Futures of Art and notably had strict COVID-19 protocols, given the public health situation at that time.

The inaugural Elevate Sydney SkyShow in 2022, themed ‘Summer Sydney’.
The 2023 edition is at the conclusion of this article below.

Something new in 2023 was the introduction of the world’s longest bar – the aptly named Long Bar! Stretching 127 metres along the Cahill Expressway facing the north over Circular Quay, this bar operated during the Elevate Social & Elevate Night sessions during the final 4 event days.

Whilst tickets to sit at the bar are free, each ticket is only valid for a 1-hour window. There are no tickets handed out for the Long Bar during Elevate Family sessions, particularly as there is, rightly, no alcohol service during that session but the bar is still available to be sat at any time for an unlimited time during that session (if a seat is available!).

Back to the Elevate Social & Nights sessions, an add-on food & beverage package costing $50 per person is also available, which includes a “glass of NSW beer or wine served with a grazing selection featuring the finest of NSW produce”. If you do not purchase the package, there is still other food & beverages being sold at the Bar during those sessions. Also, if you have a ticket for the Long Bar you enter via an elevator on the eastern Circular Quay promenade that is goes up to Expressway level! This elevator is not used during Elevate Family.

Elevate Sydney 2023 Entertainment Festival Map
Map: Elevate Sydney

Commissioned by Destination New South Wales to help with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic & produced by AGB Events with producer Olivia Bradley, Elevate Sydney is the beginning of a new dawn in annual events over Sydney Harbour – the biggest since projection mapping was introduced in 2008 for Sydney New Year’s Eve, which later sparked the phenomenal success of Vivid Sydney, which began a year later. Chief Executive Officer & Creative Director of AGB Events, Anthony Bastic, said at the 2022 Elevate Sydney launch:

The coupling of technologies and applying them to outdoor public events greatly enhances the audience experience & will certainly set a benchmark for future events. This world-class initiative really positions New South Wales as a leader in event innovation, & what a stunning debut it will be over Sydney Harbour.

We are very grateful for the support & efforts of the many agencies who have worked with us to realise this project. This is an industry we really want to nurture and promote. The Intel pilots travelling to Australia and sharing their knowledge is an amazing opportunity to grow the expertise of local drone operators

Anthony Bastic, Chief Executive Officer & Creative Director of AGB Events

The 2022 edition’s Cahill Expressway sessions, which had a capacity of 3200, reached full capacity on the penultimate Elevate Kids session & the final 3 Club Elevate sessions. Sydney Spectaculars estimates no more than 63,000 people attended Elevate Sydney 2022 (average maximum 13,100 per day, that is day 2-5) including 18,000 around Circular Quay over the 5 nights to watch the SkyShow (average 3,600 per night) in addition to the maximum 3,200 watching from the Cahill Expressway. Day 1 of the event (New Year’s Day) had an estimated attendance of no more than 3,660 given it was only held at night and also, understandably, Sydney had a big night the previous night.

Intel, who did the drone show at The Games Of The XXXIInd Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony and the first Sydney Harbour drone show at Vivid Sydney 2016, did not return in 2023 with a local company, Mirragin, instead taking the reins.

While the 2023 attendance statistics are yet to be announced, all sessions sold out while the penultimate Elevate Social session was cancelled and the first Elevate Nights session finished early (the SkyShow still went ahead on time in the end, fortunately, though), both due to the weather.

This event is one to watch for the future.

Sydney is elevating!

Gate At Heart Of Sydney NYE2022 Crowd Crush Was Not Promoted To Public Online

A map of The Rocks for New Year’s Eve 2022 published on The Rocks website for event spectators shows no entry/exit gate at the western end of Jack Munday Place despite an entry/exit gate shown in spectator footage being located there during a crowd crush on New Year’s Eve.

The gate shown in the video, whilst closed for capacity reasons at the time of the crowd crush, is clearly for entry/exit purposes with a sign attached to the gate saying ‘conditions of entry’.

The Rocks New Year’s Eve 2022 Map with the crowd crush location circled in red by ‘Sydney Spectaculars’
Map: The Rocks

Sydney Spectaculars has circled in red the crowd crush location in the map above that The Rocks published online for event spectators. As you can see, there is no mention of an entry/exit gate to be located there. There is, however, 8 entry/exit gates shown on the map. 2 of which are for free vantage points – East Circular Quay (Gate E1) & Dawes Point (Tar-ra) Park (Gate 13 and likely Gate 16 as well).

The Rocks is a free vantage point as well with the gates opening in the video to it. This is evident as a nearby electronic variable messaging sign says ‘Rocks Now Closed’. The Rocks, whilst free, was not a ticketed vantage point.

Notably, out of all the vantage points featured on the above map, The Rocks is the only vantage point without foreshore access, which might explain why the gate was not featured on the map. Another reason is that The Rocks normally does not fill up until 11pm on NYE.

While no official attendance figure has been published yet, Sydney New Year’s Eve 2022 is expected to have had the highest attendance on record – over 2 million people – as a result of being the 1st celebrations largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. This came as vantage points filled up at 6:47pm, 4 hours quicker than usual, except the main locations (Sydney Opera House/East Circular Quay) which filled up at the usual time in the late-morning & mid-afternoon respectively.

The Rocks had a capacity of 18,000 a week ago, which might sound a lot if it was not for the fact that this is a decrease of more than half of the capacity it was on NYE2019 – 40,000!

Why would the capacity of The Rocks be halved when one of the largest crowds ever were expected to attend the event? NYE2020 & 2021 were lowered due to public health concerns but it is also likely that recent temporary design changes to George Street in The Rocks made from September 2020 such as making it an one-way southbound-only street between Argyle Street & the Cahill Expressway to include alfresco dining probably has reduced event capacity significantly. It was announced a few days prior to NYE2022 that the changes will be made permanent. It should be noted that the temporary changes are harder to relocate temporarily (concrete blocks etc.) than if it was permanent (just tables, chairs & umbrellas).

Though it was not the main cause of the crowd crush, rather a contributory cause, no doubt, the use of alfresco dining during major events, particularly after 11pm on NYE, will need to be reviewed as it takes up valuable spectator space. The main cause of the crowd crush probably was poor communication of either the use of alternative unofficial vantage points (such as the back streets of the suburb of Dawes Point assuming they were not full as well, which is a 5-minute walk away. It should be pointed out this is not on the ‘show’ side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge) or the full capacity of The Rocks throughout the city via outdoor advertising, radio and/or the Internet (We were monitoring the Sydney NYE website throughout the day and the event & did not see the 6:47pm ‘All Vantages Points Closed’ announcement leading us to think until the new year that crowds were still low (but higher than NYE2021) and why aren’t other free vantage points except the Opera House & East Circular Quay filling up like usual?)

Spectators could have been redirected to Darling Harbour. However, that area’s fireworks is not considered part of the official event, even if it is listed on the Sydney NYE website as an official vantage point. There are views of the fireworks but at a distance of 2 kilometres away so spectators may have resisted making the 2km trek back there.

The Rocks were contacted by Sydney Spectaculars about the map but they did not respond to our query by the time of publication.

On January 1, following media inquiries about the crowd crush, a statement was issued by the City Of Sydney:

We work with multiple government agencies on crowd management plans well ahead of time, so incidents are dealt with quickly and people can enjoy their night.

City Of Sydney spokesperson

The City Of Sydney were contacted by Sydney Spectaculars for a copy of the crowd management plan for The Rocks vantage point but they were “unable to share the document”.

Sydney’s Back, Baby! (Probably Partied Too Hard)

Sydney has, once again, welcomed in the new year in style with colourful fireworks over Sydney Harbour with 2 waterfalls off the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time since NYE2017 – Wonder & the use of 4 city buildings for the first time since NYE2012 – Embrace while a crowd crush occurred at an entrance to The Rocks vantage point in the hour leading up to Midnight.

The Midnight Fireworks returned to its full complement of 6 barges for the 1st time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, accompanied by the world premiere of new music from Stace Cadet (featuring KLP), one track of which – Light Me Up – will be on sale in a “similar” version from January 11th. You can purchase or pre-save/add (the latter for Spotify and Apple Music) here.

Shortly before Midnight, in The Rocks at the western end of Jack Munday Place, a crowd crush occurred. It occurred at an entrance of The Rocks vantage point, where people tried to enter the free but obstructed fireworks viewing spot, which has a capacity of 18,000 (Notably, this is a decrease of 22,000 on NYE2019!). It resulted in the arrival of the New South Wales Public Order & Riot Squad.

New South Wales Police & Ambulance reported no serious injuries from the incident:

While there were a few exceptions, most people were well-behaved and enjoyed their celebrations safely and responsibly.

Several vantage points around the city were at capacity by late-afternoon, as over 200,000 revellers travelled into the city and foreshore areas ahead of the 9pm and midnight fireworks displays.

Just before midnight, large crowds surged towards a vantage point for a better view of the fireworks, resulting in police resources being deployed to the area for crowd management.

There were no injuries as a result and no arrests were made.

New South Wales Police Statement

Once again, Sydney welcomed the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display, and the vast majority of revellers enjoyed their night safely.

More than one million people gathered around Sydney harbour for the fireworks last night – the highest crowd numbers in several years due to the pandemic – so it was a very busy night for us, yet somewhat relieving to see an overall drop in call-outs.

New Year’s Eve 2022 Operation Commander, Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke

City Of Sydney, Lord Mayor Clover Moore said crowd control management had declared the city “full” at 7pm, about 4 hours earlier than in pre-COVID pandemic editions. The Sydney Opera House also reached capacity by late -morning and other parts of the city in the mid to late afternoon, which is normal. Overall, this resulted in thousands waiting outside vantage point gates or heading home. She said while some City of Sydney vantage points were ticketed, they were all free:

There were huge crowds in the city. It was really back to pre-Covid popularity.

We have measures in place for crowd control. There was a minor event at The Rocks and immediately that was sorted and there were no injuries.

We haven’t got the final (attendance) figures yet, but we probably had more people around the harbour than we have ever had before.

I would like to see all of the sites around the Harbour free.

I don’t believe other councils or government agencies should be making money out of the event.

City Of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore

To break the Sydney NYE attendance record, it would have to be over 2 million, which was the attendance record set for NYE2013 – Shine.

We work with multiple government agencies on crowd management plans well ahead of time, so incidents are dealt with quickly and people can enjoy their night.

As always, we’ll incorporate any learnings from this event as we plan next year’s celebration with our NSW government partners.

City Of Sydney spokesperson

It was really scary, very dangerous and I thought I was going to be badly injured. People were trampling me, as I was on the ground with about a dozen other people and some were running over the top of me. I lost my footing when I was pushed to the ground and landed on top of two others.


The anonymous person also told The Daily Mail Australia that the situation was particularly frightening given what happened 2 months earlier during Halloween celebrations in Seoul, South Korea, where 196 people where killed in a crowd crush.

Vivid Sydney, organised by the NSW Government, suffered a bigger but less dangerous crowd crush during Vivid Sydney 2016 which was barely reported in the media. The cause of that was simply poor planning and a bit of bad luck with the weather.

The Daily Mail Australia understands the City Of Sydney will now rethink holding ticketed and non-ticketed events in adjacent areas on New Year’s Eve. This is despite the crowd crush occurring in a location that was not ticketed on either side of the gate shown in the video.

There were some specific incidents, and we call on the Government to make sure those incidents are reviewed, and any specific safety lessons are learnt.

Deputy Opposition Leader in the New South Wales Legislative Council, John Graham

Regional Transport & Roads Minister, Sam Farraway said the “vibe was good” in Sydney as over a million people watched the Midnight Fireworks in person:

We had some significant crowd numbers. We had some significant people using public transport across the city and I think by all accounts, and from the Police accounts, everyone behaved themselves

Sydney…brought in new years with an absolute bang

New South Wales Minister for Regional Transport & Roads, Sam Farraway

New South Wales Police on foot and horseback were also called in to turn back crowds of up to 100 people trying to access the Sydney Harbour Bridge at the Grosvenor Street off-ramp, who Nine News said believed “was a legitimate spot to watch the fireworks” just before Midnight.

There were some people who did try to enter the Harbour Bridge last night and that was dealt with very quickly.

Sydney NYE2022 Executive Producer, Stephen Gilby

Other members of the public complained about overcrowding at Circular Quay while exiting ferries. One Twitter post said crowds have made it difficult to exit a ferry.

With Circular Quay being one of the most popular vantage points, some ferry passengers waited briefly to exit their services so they could move safely and freely around the promenade

Transport For NSW Spokesperson

Back to the Midnight Fireworks, apart from the traditional golden waterfall, a rainbow waterfall featured at the 7 minute mark during the Midnight Fireworks to acknowledge the display’s theme of diversity and the upcoming edition of WorldPride, a biannual international LGBTIQA+ festival that Sydney will host in February & March this year. A rainbow waterfall last appeared in the NYE2017 – Wonder Midnight Fireworks to acknowledge the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia, which occurred just weeks prior to that display.

An hour before Midnight, Sydney’s hosting of WorldPride in 2023 was celebrated with rainbows covering the Sydney Harbour Bridge as Courtney Act performed Over The Rainbow, famous from Judy Garland’s performance of the sentimental ballad in the film The Wizard Of Oz, and Zanadu, as a tribute to Olivia-Newton John who passed away in 2022.

It kicked started a 30-minute segment celebrating WorldPride 2023 at the ‘Happy New Year’ concert, held on the Northern Broadwalk of the Sydney Opera House, with performances also from Electric Fields & Casey Donovan. The concert, which went a total 2 hours and 45 minutes also featured musical tributes to Judith Durham of The Seekers, Archie Roach, Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac as well as more to the iconic Olivia-Newton John. Headlined by Tones & I, the ‘Happy New Year’ concert featured performances from Ball Park Music, Vika & Linda, Dami Im, Morgan Evans, Tasman Keith and more from the ‘NYE Queen’, Casey Donovan.

As the ‘Happy New Year’ concert was held, the Sydney Harbour Lights boat parade travelled around the Harbour. The lights on the boats were also synchronised to the Midnight Fireworks, the WorldPride 2023 Moment and Calling Country.

Calling Country, held at 9pm, was separated into 2 distinct parts this year – fireworks and a live performance unlike last year’s Welcome To Country where the 2 parts were joined seamlessly together. But like last year’s Welcome To Country, designed by the 2022 Archibald Prize winner, Blak Douglas, Calling Country was a brilliant showcase of Indigenous culture.

Calling Country was creative consulted this year by The Re-Right Collective, who in turn, collaborated with over 100 other Indigenous artists, nearly all but a few were Indigenous school children. The few that weren’t school children provided the music and one contributed to the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projections for the segment.

Calling Country was preceded by a 3-minute Welcome To Country, done via Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projections at 8:56pm for those harbourside and via a video for those watching from around the world through the ABC broadcast at 8:30pm, though with only 1 Gadigal Elder (Yvonne Weldon), compared with 2 projected onto the pylons harbourside. Before that, at 7:30pm, to open the event, a traditional Indigenous smoking ceremony was held from the vessel, Tribal Warrior, around Sydney Harbour.

ABC, KIIS 106.5 FM & 2RPH, once again, did quality broadcasts. We hope everyone around the world enjoyed them too. We thank the broadcasters for allowing the world to experience Sydney NYE without being there and we thank the City Of Sydney, the Foti family & The Re-Right Collective and the wider Gadigal nation for a spectacular Sydney NYE! Sydney’s back, baby!

After the event, City Of Sydney employees in garbage trucks, sweepers & compactors worked until sunrise to ensure the City looked clean and accessible.

What a spectacular night we’ve just had. After the challenges of the past few years, it was wonderful to welcome international and interstate visitors back to Sydney and mark the beginning of what we hope will be a safe, peaceful and fabulous 2023.

It was great to see restaurants and venues buzzing with locals and visitors from near and far and Sydney has once again cemented its reputation as the New Year’s capital of the world, so we hope those watching from across the globe start planning a visit here.

The fireworks, projections, music and live performances were a fabulous tribute to our remarkable city, showcasing the best of what our city has to offer as a stunning and safe, inclusive and buzzing destination. From our event organisers to the clean-up crews, thank you to everyone who made this event a terrific success.

After the challenges of the last few years, last night’s unforgettable show not only rung in a New Year it signalled to the world that Sydney is well and truly back!

We have sent a message of diversity and inclusion to celebrate the New Year and I hope it’s a sentiment that echoes around the world as we kick off 2023.

I’m proud we started the year off by centring First Nations stories and a spectacular welcome to those heading down under for WorldPride.

This jaw-dropping start to the new year is only possible because of the many thousands of hours of hard work by our City of Sydney team, NSW Government partners, the Foti fireworks family and the many creatives and professionals who help deliver the event. I offer them our sincere thanks. We said this year’s fireworks would be our best yet, and I believe it was!

We hope last night’s celebration provided some relief and an opportunity to look with hope to the new year. I’d like to wish everyone a happy, healthy, safe and peaceful 2023!

City Of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore

As the COVID-19 pandemic has finally eased (just!) for a return to a normal NYE, we turn to NYE2023 and whether the 9pm fireworks will now return to its former ‘family’ theme. The Indigenous-themed 9pm 8-minute fireworks have been a great addition – one the event needed after the growing Acknowledgement Of/Welcome To Countries since NYE2008 – Creation. Maybe the City Of Sydney should consider starting the visual broadcast off at 8:30pm with a 4-minute Indigenous-themed fireworks display of 2 barges, one east and one west of the Bridge? The event cannot return the Family Fireworks and lose the 8-minute Indigenous-themed fireworks – not after the last 2 spectacular editions of the 9pm fireworks, which have been the best 9pm fireworks done since 1998. We will have to wait & see on that.

Also, coming up in January, the all-important Sydney NYE fireworks contract is up for renewal. After 25 years, will the Foti family bring another 3 spectacular editions or will a new company bring a fresh perspective on the event particularly from the Howard fireworks family, who have been watching from the sidelines since the 2000 Olympics?

Lastly, on a sober note, tonight may have been the last time we see the Sydney Opera House used for fireworks on NYE as the ‘decade of renewal’ ends with the Sydney Opera House’s 50th anniversary in October this year. It may return in NYE2023 for a 50th anniversary tribute but after that is a total guess particularly after the reintroduction of the city buildings in the Midnight Fireworks tonight, which were removed from the event when the Sydney Opera House was readded on NYE2013 – Shine.

We hope you have enjoyed our coverage of Sydney New Year’s Eve 2022 since late November. Stay tuned to our site as the next flagship Sydney Spectacular is just around the corner! And don’t forget in July & August this year, Australia co-hosts the FIFA Women’s World Cup! We also hope to see you again in late November for coverage of Sydney New Year’s Eve 2023.