for the restaurant see Moomba (restaurant)

Moomba is Australia's largest free community festival and one of the longest running festivals in Australia. Held annually in the city of Melbourne, Australia, Moomba is celebrated during the Labour Day long weekend (over four days, from Friday to the second Monday in March), and has been celebrated since 1955. In 2003, the event was renamed Melbourne Moomba Waterfest. It is a family festival run by the City of Melbourne Council.



In 1951, Australia celebrated fifty years of Federation with a parade and the staging of the theater production "An Aboriginal Moomba: Out of the Dark". The following year, the final Labour 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 the Moomba Festival. The first festival was officially opened in 1955.


Parade and floats

Moomba procession, 1955

Floats through the streets of Melbourne have been a key part of the Moomba festival since its beginning. 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. The floats are usually from sister cities (of which Melbourne has 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.

The first Moomba parade was televised in 1957, the year after the Melbourne 1956 Olympics.

In 2001, the floats came under controversy when some contained representations of naked people.

Moomba monarchs

"The Moomba monarchy has been one of the most celebrated and controversial components of the festival over the years."[1]

  1. Queen of Moomba (1955–1987) from Beverley Stewart to Marita Jones.[2] Won by a beauty pageant competition.
  2. Queen of the Pacific (1967–1977) from Betty Lim Saw Yim (as Princess of Malaysia) to Lei Maa (Princess of Hawaii).[2]
  3. King of Moomba (1967–1987): British actor Robert Morley (1967), British actor Alfred Marks (1968), Italian opera singer Tito Gobbi (1969), featherweight boxing champion Johnny Famechon (1970), Russian clown Oleg Popov (1971), pop singer Johnny Farnham (1972) with Collingwood footballer Lou Richards as his Jester, indigenous Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls (1973), ballet dancer Sir Robert Helpmann (1974), entertainer Rolf Harris (1975), entertainer Barry Crocker (1976), Disney character Mickey Mouse as King of Moomba and TV Personality Ugly Dave Gray as a Jester (1977), first Melbourne born king, entertainer Bert Newton (1978), entertainer Graham Kennedy (1979), TV actor Paul Cronin (1980), 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).[1] Another source lists Gobbi (1968), Marks (1969) and Richards as Jester (1971).[2]
  4. Moomba Monarch (1988–1999) (2010–present): Jo Pearson, Con the Fruiterer, David Hanison, Tony Shaw, Don Dunstan, The Oarsome Foursome, Andrew Gaze, Cathy Freeman, Marina Prior, Kevin Sheedy, Trevor Marmalade, Lano and Woodley, and Denise Drysdale.[2] 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 alias John Perry had pleaded guilty to child molestation they were dethroned. In 2010 the tradition was finally restored after 11 years with Molly Meldrum and Kate Ceberano being named King and Queen of Moomba [3]
  5. Young Ambassador (2003–2009): Carrie Stoney, Sam Quinn, Alan Wu, Natalie Bassingthwaighte.[2] 2007: Trisha Broadbridge.[4]
  6. Moomba Monarchs (2010–Present): Molly Meldrum and Kate Ceberano.[5]. (2011): Mick Malthouse and Ruby Rose.[6]

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 & Katherine. <<>>


Fireworks are a big part of the Moomba festival and large displays occur on the opening and closing nights of the festival.


A traditional carnival including 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's performers have included acts such as ABBA, Neil Diamond and AC/DC.

River activities

Moomba is somewhat a paradox in that it celebrates the Yarra River, a river that has been much maligned in 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 1961.

River Floats

The festival has featured Chinese Dragon Boats and the Moomba Showboat.

Birdman rally

Among the more popular Birdmen event, the Birdman Rally, which traditionally adds colour to the festival and is traditionally held at the Swan Street bridge, a location that also featured in the 2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony as part of the Queens Baton Relay.

Beginning in 1976, the infamous Birdman event has been run on and off during Moomba's history.

More recently the event was stopped due to high levels of E. coli contamination of the Yarra.

2004 saw the return of the famous Birdman Rally to the Yarra River.

Subsequent cleanups reduced pollution to acceptable levels and in 2005, the rally was held close to its traditional location in the new inner city park, Birrarung Marr.

Origins of the name

The official translation is "let's get together and have fun."

In 1981 Barry Blake in his Australian Aboriginal Languages spelled out the etymology in more detail:

Undoubtedly the most unfortunate choice of a proper name from Aboriginal sources was made in Melbourne when the city fathers chose to name the city's annual festival 'Moomba'. The name is supposed to mean 'Let's get together and have fun', though one wonders how anyone could be naive enough to believe that all this can be expressed in two syllables. In fact 'moom' (mum) means 'buttocks' or 'anus' in various Victorian languages and 'ba' is a suffix that can mean 'at', 'in' or 'on'. Presumably someone has tried to render 'up your bum' in the vernacular.

Furthermore, in 1969, Luise Hercus provided the following definition for 'mum' (i.e., 'moom') in The Languages of Victoria:

Mum: bottom, rump. The jocular Healesville expression 'mum ba' — 'bottom and . . .' — has been given to the authorities in jest with the translation 'let us get together and have fun', hence the Melbourne Moomba Festival.


  1. ^ a b Craig Bellamy, Gordon Chisholm, Hilary Eriksen (17 Feb 2006) Moomba: A festival for the people.: PDF pp 17-22
  2. ^ a b c d e Moomba Monarchs:
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mary Bolling & Matthew Schulz, (12 Mar 2007) Moomba thrills young and old:,23599,21366832-421,00.html article from Herald Sun
  5. ^
  6. ^

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