Moomba is the festival of the city of Melbourne, initiated by the City Development Association to liven up Melbourne and attract tourists. The first Moomba parade took place in 1955 on the Labour Day public holiday in March, which commemorated the advent of the eight hour working day, which was first won in 1856.
Photographs of street parade including Moomba, H2014.11/96
The last Labour Day parade was in 1951. In the photograph below, you can see the numbers ‘8 8 8’ on the horse’s blanket, which stands for ‘8 hours labour, 8 hours rest, 8 hours recreation’. An 8 hour monument was built and now stands in Melbourne on the corner of Russell & Victoria Streets.
Going to Eight Hours Day Procession, Darebin (?) Rd., Northcote, ca. 1890-ca. 1920, H33582
Four years later, in 1955, Melbourne City Councillors decided that a festival in the heart of Melbourne might attract tourists. The festival originally ran over two weeks and is now held over three days. The word Moomba is an Aboriginal word, which originated from the Aboriginal theatre production, An Aboriginal Moomba: out of the dark. (eMelbourne: Moomba) Moomba was said to mean ‘coming together’ however recent research suggests that it may have been a trick played by Bill Onus, then president of the Australian Aborigines’ League.
Cover of the theatre program file, [Out of the dark (an Aboriginal moomba)]
The Argus, Thursday 10 March 1955
The first Queen of Moomba was Beverley Stewart. The King of Moomba wasn’t introduced until 1967, the first being Robert Morley. Some events over the years have included bicycle racing through the streets, car racing around Albert Park Lake, the woodchopping championship, the birdman rally, the sometimes dangerous fireworks, water skiing, and always the parade. Regular parade floats have included entries from Myers, Coles, Telecom and the Gas & Fuel Corporation. This years’ Queen of Moomba is Pallavi Sharda and the King is Shane Warne.
1st Moomba, M.C.C.E.S. Meter Branch, H2014.1063/7
Melbourne – Moomba, by Rennie Ellis, H2011.150/677. This work is in copyright.
Moomba Festival, Melbourne, by Rennie Ellis, H2011.150/647. This work is in copyright.
eMelbourne: the city past and present:’Moomba’ by Craig Bellamy
Moomba, the first 25 years by Keith Dunstan.