Labour Day - History in Pictures

Labour Day has been an official Queensland public holiday, celebrated on the first Monday in May, since 1912 and before that as Eight Hours Day since 1901. Before its official recognition as a public holiday, parades and celebrations had taken place in Queensland since the 1860s. The first celebration took place in Brisbane on 16 March 1861 and was essentially a celebration by a small number of skilled building workers who had recently achieved an eight-hour working day. The date of the event was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the first workers achieving the eight hour day in Queensland.

Eight Hour Day procession in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, ca. 1908

Eight Hour Day procession in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, ca. 1908

Celebrations of Eight Hour Day continued to take place in March in Brisbane and on various other dates in different cities and towns. New impetus was given to the celebration when striking shearers staged a large procession in Barcaldine on 1 May 1891 and from 1893 the Eight Hour Day was moved to the first Monday in May in Brisbane and around the state.

Eight Hour Day procession, Brisbane, 1893

Eight Hour Day procession through the main street of Bundaberg, ca. 1898

Eight Hour Day and Labour Day have traditionally been marked with processions representing different trades and unions with banners and floats and also with sports days, picnics and excursions.

Labour Day Festivities at Canungra, 1914

Eight Hour Day Procession along Queen Street, Brisbane, ca. 1907

Meatworkers in the Labor Day March in Toowoomba, ca. 1910

Labour Day processions have featured many elaborate floats over the years powered by horse, steam or internal combustion engines.

Three procession floats travelling through Bundaberg celebrating Eight Hour Day, 1902

Three procession floats travelling through Bundaberg celebrating Eight Hour Day, 1902

Charters Towers butchers float in the Eight Hour Day Parade, ca. 1914

Butchers posing in front of their Labor Day float, Brisbane, 1920

Ipswich Railway Workshops exhibit in the Labour Day Procession, Brisbane, 1913

Float in the Labour Day Parade, Brisbane, Queensland, ca. 1913

Red Emperor float in the Labor Day procession, Brisbane, 1940

Simon Miller - Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

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