Moomba (also known as the
Moomba Festival) is held annually in
Melbourne, Australia. Run by the City of Melbourne, it is Australia's
largest free community festival, and a Melbournian tradition dating
back half a century. The event is celebrated over four days,
Labour Day long weekend, from Friday to the second
Monday in March.
Moomba is culturally important to Melbourne, having
been celebrated since 1955, and regularly attracts up to a million
people, with a record attendance of 1.7 million set in 1996.
In 2003, the event was renamed
Moomba Waterfest and is
centred on the Yarra River.
Traditional events include the
Moomba parade, crowning of Moomba
monarchs, fireworks displays, carnivals in the gardens along the
river, river activities including watersports, water floats and the
birdman rally, as well as live music and bands.
3 Event history
4.1 Parade and floats
4.5 River activities
4.5.2 River Floats
4.5.3 Birdman rally
4.6 Music and live bands
5 Popular culture
7 Other reading
8 External links
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". In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II visited the city for the
first time as reigning monarch, and the City Development Association
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 festival was originally named
Moomba by organizers in the belief
it was a native word meaning 'let's get together and have fun.' Credit
is usually given to Bill Onus, a unionist and member of the Australian
Aborigines' League for proposing the term, which he used in a play,
Moomba in 1951. In 1969
Luise Hercus glossed the word
mum (rhyming with 'vroom') as meaning 'bottom, rump', and suggested
mum-ba meant something like 'bottom and..', and had been introduced
from Healesville usage as a joke. In 1981
Barry Blake analysed the
word as combining as mum (anus) and –ba, a locative suffix meaning
‘at, in, on'. This would give the sense of 'up your bum/arse'.
Onus himself, according to his daughter-in-law, who said she had heard
the story from Onus's wife Mary, had picked up the word from a word
list of indigenous terms. Some say he did it to get back at the
city council for having deliberately upstaged the traditional Labour
Day march with a popular carnival. Lin Onus, his son, stated that
indeed his father had intended to play a prank in passing on the word
with this sense.
Moomba was a 15-day festival officially opened on 12 March
1955 by the State 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
intended to be a festival for families and as such is reinforcing
family values in society.
After the 2016
Moomba festival fireworks there was a large-scale brawl
in and around
Federation Square in Melbourne's Central Business
District, largely between members of two gangs, Apex and Islander
Parade and floats
A parade (or "procession") and floats through the streets of Melbourne
have been a key part of the
Moomba festival since its beginning. Each
year it attracts over 100,000 people to Melbourne's city centre as
well as being shown on free-to-air television in Melbourne.
Moomba procession was held in 1955. It was first televised
in 1957, the year after the
Melbourne 1956 Olympics.
Snuff Puppets float
Moomba Parade 2001
The floats have an annual theme, usually an elaboration on "Let's get
together and have fun", the avowed mission and vision statement of
Moomba and are usually from sister cities (of which
six), schools and community groups. They also promote some aspect of
the arts, like singing, dancing, or design. Swanston Street is the
traditional home of the floats and spine of the city and horse- or
tractor-drawn floats use the tram tracks. Decorated trams are
sometimes also featured.
In 2001, the parade came under media controversy when a French Troupe
Snuff Puppets had floats with naked people covered in
Moomba monarchs --
Lucy Durack and Bert Newton
Moomba monarchy has been one of the most celebrated and
controversial components of the festival over the years.
Moomba (1955 to 1987) from Beverley Stewart to Marita
Jones. Won by a beauty pageant competition. 1966
Erica McMillan was killed in a car accident seven weeks after the
festival, in the car which she had received as a prize for being voted
Queen of the Pacific (1967–1977) from Betty Lim Saw Yim (as Princess
of Malaysia) to Lei Maa (Princess of Hawaii).
Moomba (1967 to 1987): British actor
Robert Morley (1967),
Alfred Marks (1968), Italian opera singer Tito Gobbi
(1969), featherweight boxing champion
Johnny Famechon (1970), Russian
Oleg Popov (1971), pop singer Johnny Farnham (1972) with
Lou Richards as his Jester, indigenous Pastor
Douglas Nicholls (1973), ballet dancer Sir
Robert Helpmann (1974),
Rolf Harris (1975), entertainer
Barry Crocker (1976),
Mickey Mouse as King of
Moomba and TV Personality
Ugly Dave Gray as a Jester (1977), first
Melbourne born king,
Bert Newton (1978), entertainer
Graham Kennedy (1979), TV
Paul Cronin (1980),
Lou Richards again but this time as King
(1981), film, TV and stage actor
Frank Thring (1982), TV Personality
Daryl Somers (1983), footballer Kevin Bartlett (1984), TV Personality
Ian "Molly" Meldrum (1985), motor racing driver
Peter Brock (1986) and
champion doubles tennis player
Paul McNamee (1987). Another source
lists Gobbi (1968), Marks (1969) and Richards as Jester (1971).
Moomba Monarch (1988–1999) (2010–present): Jo Pearson, Con the
Fruiterer, David Hanison, Tony Shaw, Keith Dunstan, The Oarsome
Foursome, Andrew Gaze, Cathy Freeman, Marina Prior, Kevin Sheedy,
Trevor Marmalade, Lano and Woodley, and Denise Drysdale. Female
Monarchs were also called Queen of
Moomba and male Monarchs were
called King of Moomba. In 1999 the tradition ended when clowns Zig and
Zag were appointed. After it was revealed that, years before, Zig
(Jack Perry) had pleaded guilty to child molestation they were
dethroned. In 2010 the tradition was finally restored after 11 years
Molly Meldrum and
Kate Ceberano being named King and Queen of
Moomba  (2011):
Mick Malthouse and Ruby Rose. (2012): Harry
Kewell and Natalie Bassingthwaighte. (2013): Ambulance Victoria
and St John's Ambulance (one combined representative), MFB, CFA,
Salvation Army, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, SES
and Victoria Police, made up the Seven Kings and Queens 
Young Ambassador (2003–2009): Carrie Stoney, Sam Quinn, Alan Wu,
Natalie Bassingthwaighte. 2007: Trisha Broadbridge.
Moomba Monarch crowns for 2010 and 2011 were handcrafted by Paris
Kyne Master Milliner. 1989 also had a time where
Moomba also included
a Prince and Princess of
Moomba which were two children who applied
through a radio competition on radio station
3KZ with resumes and
auditions to perform paid work with the
Life. Be in it. dancers in the
Alexander Gardens every day. These two winners were Mark Monroe &
Fireworks are a big part of the
Moomba festival and large displays
occur on every night of the festival .The fireworks are above the
A traditional carnival including a ferris wheel are held in the
Alexandra Gardens along the river bank. In recent years, the carnival
has extended to
Birrarung Marr across the river. It is popular with
children, and dagwood dogs and doughnut stands line the paths.
Moomba particularly celebrates the Yarra River, which has been much
maligned during the history of the city until the last few decades.
Water skiing on the Yarra
Water skiing in the Yarra was introduced to
Moomba in 1959.
The festival has featured Chinese dragon boats and the Moomba
Among the more popular events is the Birdman Rally, begun in
1976, which adds colour to the festival, and is
traditionally held at the Swan Street bridge over the Yarra River.
However it has been held only intermittently during Moomba's history.
It was stopped for a number of years due to high levels of E. coli
contamination of the Yarra. Subsequent clean-ups reduced pollution to
acceptable levels and 2004 saw its return. In 2005 the rally was held
in the new inner city park, Birrarung Marr, close to its traditional
Music and live bands
Kimbra performing at
Moomba in 2011
Moomba's performers have included international musical acts such as
Neil Diamond and
AC/DC as well as a number of smaller local
In 2012, performers included
Tex Perkins and Daryl Braithwaite.
Do-Re-Mi released a single "King of Moomba" in 1987 in reference to
the crowning element of the festival.
^ Powley 2017.
^ "'Moomba' gala next year". The Argus. 1954-05-13. Retrieved
^ pg4. The Argus Wednesday 1 December 1954
^ a b Dubecki 2008.
^ a b Kelly 2011.
^ Hercus 1969, p. 371.
^ Moore 2001, p. 131.
^ Blake 1981, p. 84.
^ "It's a gay day today". The Argus. 1955-03-12. Retrieved
^ "With the Churchmen: '
Moomba spirit leading us to decay". The Argus.
1955-03-14. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
^ "Councillor defends Moomba". The Argus. 1955-03-15. Retrieved
Melbourne street brawl blamed on Apex gang after
Sunday March 13, 2016.
The Guardian Retrieved May 18, 2016
^ a b Craig Bellamy, Gordon Chisholm, Hilary Eriksen (17 Feb 2006)
Moomba: A festival for the people.:
http://www.craigbellamy.net/images/moomba.pdf PDF pp 17-22
^ a b c d e
Moomba Monarchs: "Archived copy". Archived from the
original on 14 July 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 February 2013.
Retrieved 18 February 2013.
^ Mary Bolling & Matthew Schulz, (12 Mar 2007)
young and old:
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21366832-421,00.html article from
Dubecki, Larissa (8 March 2008). "Let's have fun, said some, and name
a festival 'Up Your Bum'". The Age.
Kelly, Piers (14 March 2011). "Does 'Moomba' really mean 'up your
Moore, Bruce (2001). "Australian English and Indigenous Voices". In
Blair, David; Collins, Peter. English in Australia. John Benjamins
Publishing. pp. 133–150. ISBN 978-9-027-29799-0.
Hercus, Luise A. (1969). The Languages of Victoria: A Late Survey,
Issue 6, Part 2. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Powley, Kathryn (10 March 2017). "
Moomba 2017 guide: Melbourne's 'free
community festival' has arrived". Herald Sun.
Eckersley, M. 2012. 'Australian Indigenous Drama'. Tasman Press.
Melbourne City Council's
Social history of Moomba, on Culture Victoria
Snopes.com entry on the word "Moomba"
Also see the official
Moomba history book written by Dr Craig Bellamy
et al. (2006)
Events in the
Melbourne City Centre
Note: this includes events held in the
Melbourne City Centre and its
immediate surrounds, not the Greater
Melbourne metropolitan area
All: Summer Fun in the City of Melbourne
December: Australian Dancesport Championships
Boxing Day Test
Carols by Candlelight
Myer Christmas Parade
January: Australian Open
Melbourne International Boat Show
One Day International
One Day International Cricket
February: St Kilda Festival
Herald Sun Tour
White Night festivals
March: Australian Grand Prix
Melbourne Fashion Festival
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
Melbourne Queer Film Festival
April: ANZAC Day parade
AFL ANZAC Day clash
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show
Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series
June: AFL Queen's Birthday clash
Melbourne International Animation Festival
Australian International Motor Show
Melbourne International Jazz Festival
July: State of Design Festival
Melbourne International Film Festival
Open House Melbourne
Melbourne Underground Film Festival
Melbourne Writers Festival
September: AFL Grand Final
Melbourne Fringe Festival
Melbourne International Festival of Brass
Melbourne Spring Fashion Week
October: Around the Bay in a Day
Melbourne Marathon Festival
Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival
Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix
November: Head of the Yarra
Melbourne Cup Carni