Labour Day - History in Pictures

Labour Day has been an official Queensland public holiday, celebrated on the first Monday in May, since 1912 (except for 2013 to 2015 when the holiday was moved to October) 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. Negative number 39681, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

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. Negative number 17212, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Eight Hour Day procession through the main street of Bundaberg, ca. 1898. Negative number 22162, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

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. Negative number 185626, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Eight Hour Day Procession along Queen Street, Brisbane, ca. 1907. Negative number 67346, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Meatworkers in the Labor Day March in Toowoomba, ca. 1910. Negative number: 169627, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

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. Negative number 49499, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Charters Towers butchers float in the Eight Hour Day Parade, ca. 1914. Negative number 20668, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Butchers posing in front of their Labor Day float, Brisbane, 1920. Negative number 128805, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Ipswich Railway Workshops exhibit in the Labour Day Procession, Brisbane, 1913. Negative number 201687. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Float in the Labour Day Parade, Brisbane, Queensland, ca. 1913. Negative number 37966, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Red Emperor float in the Labor Day procession, Brisbane, 1940. Negative number 105325, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Simon Miller - Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

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any pics from 1975, please

Hi Jules, we might have something in the collection, but not digitised/online. If you would like us to pursue this further please complete our online enquiry form - https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/plan-my-visit/services/ask-us