Moomba Festival

The annual Moomba Waterfest is a celebration of the City of Melbourne and of the diverse communities that breathe life and character into its public spaces and give strength to its cultural fabric.

Since it s establishment in 1955, the Moomba Festival has become something of an institution in Melbourne, unfolding in the city s parks, along the streets and on the waters of the Yarra River. The festival is as familiar to post-war Melbourne as Australian Rules Football and the Melbourne Cup have been for more then a century, having touched the lives of millions. Truly a festival for the people, Melbourne's annual Moomba festival was keenly anticipated by Melbournians through childhood, and for them it remains a spur to youthful memories of carnival rides, colourful parades and exciting new experiences. Moomba continues to create those experiences and memories for successive generations of festival-goers, both locals and visitors from near and far.

One of the largest and longest running festivals in Australia, Moomba commands a strong place in the social history of Melbourne. In early festivals, post-war migrants typically displayed their ethnicity through traditional costume and performance and in the mid 60s, with a turn towards a more arts-orientated program, Aboriginal, Jewish, Italian and Latvian arts were featured prominently. Multiculturalism has been widely accepted since the early 1990s, and today, cultural diversity is well represented and has become a major feature of Moomba.

For many festival-goers the most memorable experience is the grand parade down Swanston Street, which has served historically as the defining event of Moomba. At its height from the 1950s until the 1970s, it drew hundreds of thousands of people to central Melbourne. If Swanston Street and the inner-city parks are seminal places in the history of Moomba, so too is the Yarra River. In recent years, Moomba has embraced the river and the new urban developments that flank it. Historically much neglected and maligned, the river that runs through the city s heart is the stage for the festival's many sporting feats and aquatic displays - the Moomba Showboat, the Dragon Boat Races, the Moomba Masters and the Birdman Rally.

Moomba Waterfest is held on the Labor Day public holiday each March.


In 1951, Australia celebrated fifty years of Federation with a parade and the staging of the theatre production "An Aboriginal Moomba: Out of the Dark". it is a culture Day procession was held in Melbourne. In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II visited the city in her first appearance as reigning monarch and the City Development Association and the Melbourne City Council proposed an autumn carnival to be known as "Moomba". A committee was formed in July, 1954 to organise and fund the event, successfully allocating £10,000 to its inaugural running. Before the event's first year, controversy was created when Labor Councillor Frank Williams resigned from the committee branding the planned carnival as a "Bourke street joke for the benefit of shopkeepers". A promotional theme song "Come to Melbourne for the Moomba" was written by Jack O'Hagan.

The first festival was a 15-day festival officially opened on 12 March 1955 by Governor Sir Dallas Brooks. The inaugural programme included a fireworks display, parade, vintage car display, Henley rowing regatta, river floats including a "Lord Mayor's houseboat", cycling race, tennis at Kooyong, concerts including performances by the Victorian Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic choir, crowning of the Queen of Moomba and riverside carnival. 25,000 turned out to watch the inaugural Moomba parade down Swanston Street. The first Moomba was heavily criticised by Melbourne's conservative establishment, including the Anglican church which at the time claimed it was hedonistic and embodying social decay. Council responded to the criticism citing that Moomba was intended to be a festival for families and as such is reinforcing family values in society.

2014 Moomba monarchs - Lucy Durack and Bert Newton

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