Uni Life

Let’s get naked and smoke; Autonomy Day breaks free from covid

Lucy Egan takes a closer look at the revamped Autonomy Day, after two years of interruptions.

*Disclosure: Yak Media does not endorse substance use or public nudity.

To say that Covid has changed and disrupted the way many events are run is to state the obvious. There are first and second year students (or even third or fourth) who may not have heard of, or experienced Autonomy Day at the University of Newcastle (UON) due to the way the last two years have gone. Or they may have heard about it through second-hand stories from friends, on-campus residents, parents and co-workers. This article will take a closer look at the history of Autonomy Day compared to how it is today.

What is Autonomy Day?

Autonomy Day is annual celebration of UON’s  independence from its parent institution, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1965 as was decreed by the NSW governor at the time, Sir Eric Winslow Woodward. Over the years it has been celebrated in a number of different ways; that generally involve partying with recreational drinking and activities.


The first Autonomy Day was held on January first, 1965, in front of the Physics building. It was a small gathering, with a bonfire (during a total fire ban) and the police shut it down at midnight. The next few years saw Autonomy Day become more of a chaotic, destructive force with property damage and vandalism. On a more positive note, they also included parades and processions through the centre of town, with floats from different university bodies, students and organisations.

Over the years, Autonomy Day activities have ranged from scavenger hunts, to billy cart races, drinking competitions, sport gala days with UNSW, unofficial Ironman events, uphill bike racing, bouncy castle boxing ring and other events. More recently, Autonomy Day has transformed into a day with a festival-like atmosphere, with music, activities and hanging out with friends for a day of partying and drinking.

So what is the go this year?

For the first Autonomy Day post-Covid the University has put together a day of fun and festivity on Friday 5th August from 10am-4pm.

There will be three stages with musical acts throughout the day, stationed around and in Bar on the Hill at the Callaghan Campus (on Awabakal Land).

Some of bands, acts and singers featured are handpicked from the UON Band Comp and DJ Comp, who will be playing at the Bar on the Hill Lawn Stage.

A silent disco, will take place from 10am-3pm on Park on the Hill. Grab a drink, hang out with your mates and have a boogie.

There will also be a Chill Out Zone for those who need a break from partying (or need support services), near the Student Services Building (next to the Bar on the Hill).

Tickets are $10 per student, you can bring one friend who’s not a student for $20, and join in the fun! Hope to see you there!

Please be careful with anything you ingest, alcohol or otherwise, there will be Event Staff who can help in case of an emergency.

To read more about the 2022 event click here!

To read more about past Autonomy Days on a timeline from Living Histories click here!

Feature Image: Autonomy Day 1967 – Colour Slide by Ross Smith, courtesy of Special Collections, UON Library

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