Fireworks are banned in Australia. It's not only to stop people hurting themselves or others, but the laws also to prevent bushfires from starting. Accidentally burning down your own shed or house is one thing, but in a country where every second tree seems to be made of petrol and dynamite, preventing people in outer suburbs and rural areas from setting fire to the place seems like a good idea. But in the Northern Territory there's one day when people can freely light their fireworks - Territory Day.
Territory Day is not a public holiday, but Territorians have often stated they'd be willing to swap another holiday for it. Locals sure treat it like a public holiday. On Territory Day, Territorians celebrate their ruggedness and love of a bit of danger in the way only they know how: by letting off loads and loads and loads of fireworks. For this, they have a tiny five hour window between 6pm and 11pm. Between 9am and 9pm on 1st of July is the tiny window for buying the things.
Mindil Beach in Darwin is a popular vantage point to watch the spectacular displays. Not only loud noises, the event is also offers delicious food from the markets and people can picnic on the sand as they watch the fireworks burst and sparkle. Not only at Mindil Beach, lots of places and towns in Northern Territory (NT) have their own bang event.
To mark the Northern Territory's anniversary of self-governance by the Commonwealth Government, people in NT are celebrating by lighting a banger or watching fireworks sparkle. Territory Day is one of the most spectacular events on the festival calendar in NT. For one day only the Territory lights up in a rainbow of rockets, bangers and Roman candles. On that day, Territorians and visitors alike gather for public fireworks shows. They also compete with one another to produce the most brilliant pyrotechnics display.
On 1 July 1978, around 6000 Territorians gathered at Darwin's Cenotaph to be part of something special. Self-government was finally achieved. The day began with the swearing in of the inaugural NT Government ministry, before public celebrations kicked off with a guard of honour and the first official flag-raising. Flight Sergeant Gordon Mcloughlin had the prestigious job of flying the new flag. The Royal Australian Navy ship was anchored offshore to pay tribute to the flag-raising ceremony, while RAAF aircraft, a stunt flyer and parachutists provided aerial entertainment.
Inspiring words marked the celebrations, including a message from the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser: "Today's historic occasion symbolises the strength and the spirit of men and women of the Territory, a spirit that has endured suffering, withstood hardships and overcome many times of adversity."
The Territory Day fireworks tradition started on 1 July 1980. A cabinet decision in February 1980 determined that the celebration of self-government was a more relevant occasion for Territorians than Guy Fawkes Day in November, which at the time was the NT's cracker night. In a press release announcing Territory Day fireworks, then Chief Minister, Paul Everingham, said The anniversary of a responsible Northern Territory Parliament is considered a more appropriate way for Territorians to celebrate the continuing tradition of the Westminster system of Government than the anachronistic Guy Fawkes Day which is not celebrated in any other state of Australia. It has, therefore, been decided that celebration of Guy Fawkes Day will cease and the public firing of fireworks will be permitted on 1 July each year.
When the NT Government consulted Territorians about the future of Territory Day in 2014, there were strong views on both sides of the private fireworks debate, but many Territorians love that they are the only State or Territory in Australia to enjoy this privilege.
Beside fireworks, on Territory Day, new citizens are welcomed into Australia. They pledge their commitment to become Australian citizens in a very special Citizenship Ceremony
If you are using your own fireworks, here are some tips to reduce potential harms.
1. Do not buy more fireworks than you can safely use on Territory Day. It is illegal to possess fireworks outside of Territory Day on 1 July
2. Clear a 10 metre in diameter area to light your fireworks in and use a sand bucket to stabilise fireworks, especially multi-shot fireworks
3. Have a hose or bucket of water ready for emergencies
4. Do not wear synthetic (e.g. nylon, rayon, polyester) clothes around fireworks as stray sparks can cause them to catch fire
5. Dud fireworks can still go off. Leave for 15 minutes then douse with water
6. Never point, hold or throw lit fireworks
7. Never give fireworks to children under 12 years of age. Supervise children at all times
8. If you get burnt, cool the area immediately by submerging in cold water or gently pour cold water on the burn for at least 15 minutes
9. Seek medical attention for severe burns. Call 000 in case of emergency.
Animal Welfare is asking Territorians to take some simple steps to protect their pets this Territory Day. Animals have a much more sensitive and broader range of hearing than humans, and fireworks can cause pets to flee to try to escape the loud noises. Each year councils are inundated with enquires regarding lost pets on Territory Day. Pet owners can reduce the risk to their pets safety by following some simple steps this Territory Day: Do not take your pet with you to fireworks displays. Ensure your pet is registered. Keep your pet indoors or in an area where they cannot escape. Reduce the sound by shutting windows and doors. Camouflage the sound with the television or radio. Give your pet plenty of water, they may become very thirsty when stressed. Losing a pet can be very stressful for the entire family, but if you follow the steps above you can help to ensure your pets stay at home, safe and sound.
For cruelty or neglect concerns or for more information on animal welfare, contact Animal Welfare on 1300 720 386 or visit www.animalwelfare.nt.gov.au
Love them or hate them, Territory Day fireworks are undeniably a Territory tradition.