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.

moomba girls
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.

8Going to Eight Hours Day Procession, Darebin (?) Rd., Northcoteca. 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.

MoombaCover 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, H2011.150/647This work is in copyright.

The Library holds a great collection of Moomba images, many taken by well known photographer Rennie Ellis. We also hold festival programmes and newsletters and images of the eight hour day marches.


30 years of super Moomba celebrations, March 2-12

eMelbourne: the city past and present:’Moomba’ by Craig Bellamy

Moomba, the first 25 years by Keith Dunstan.


This article has 10 comments

  1. Elizabeth Craven

    It was lovely seeing all that history and the Moomba photos.
    I have been going since it started

  2. Originally the hope was Moomba would have a cultural element. So there was a Book Fair which featured only Australian books. The person behind this was Dr Andrew Fabinyi of Cheshires. Fabinyi was a wonderful man and a great promoter of Australian books. I think the Moomba Book Fair only lasted 2-3 years. They had readings, speakers book launches and sold Australian books.

  3. Hi Paul
    In the fifties the Moomba Queen and her “Princesses” and their chaperon would arrive at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron ( or Royal StKilda Y C as it was then ) on the Sunday for morning tea and then we would have a Ladies Skippers Race from StKilda to the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria at Williamstown for a BBQ lunch.
    The yachts used were a fleet of “one design” Tumlaren Class., a 27 foot Classic timber yacht that had its home at the R.StK.Y.C since the 1930s.
    Of course the Tumlaren sailed by the Moomba Queen generally ‘won’ the race and a good day was had by all. The girls were picked up at Williamstown after lunch and taken to their next appointment. This day was held for many years until a revamp of Moomba in the sixties.

  4. Do you have audio of Francis Laurence Moffatt interrupting the Governor’s speech at the 1955 Moomba Parade?

  5. I was the Princess of moomba 1988..
    Was my proudest moment ever.

  6. What year was Albert Namatjira honored in the Moomba Parade?

    • Hi Rose,
      I will log your enquiry with our Ask a Librarian service, and one of our librarians will get back to you.

  7. Hi Paul,
    Are you sure the first parade was 1955 and not 1954?
    I found a book in the State library by Keith Dunstan which was promoting the Silver Jubilee in 1979 and posters in the City of Melbourne collection promoting the 30th anniversary in 1984, which would indicate 1954.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *