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May Day

This public celebration of the international solidarity of the working class is marked by a procession followed by a meeting. For much of its history it has been celebrated on 1 May or the first Sunday thereafter, following its present route from Trades Hall to the Yarra Bank since 1924. Its participants carry red flags - the traditional symbol of socialism and revolution - and a rich array of trade union and other banners dominate the march. The theme of the march changes with the issues of the day, like anti-conscription; free speech; the fight against fascism; workers' rights; the Vietnam War; equal pay; and the right to strike.

The first May Day was held in Melbourne on 30 April 1893, and, except for 1941 and 1942 after it had been banned by the Menzies Government, it has been celebrated each year since. It was adopted from the Europeans for whom it was a form of agitation for the eight-hour day. For Melburnians, who had long had this right, the Eight Hours' Day procession was considered the more important political procession. When that was transformed into Moomba, May Day was left as the only public celebration of working-class solidarity.

Joy Damousi