Media Release – Annual Christmas Day BYO Picnic Lunches Across Australia
IMMEDIATE RELEASE 21 December 2016 2:00pm
11th Annual Event in Melbourne in 2016
Christmas Day can be a lonely occasion if you are a long way away from family and friends.
Even if you do not normally celebrate this religious occasion, it is still nice to have ‘something to do’ on Christmas Day as plenty of people will ask you ‘and what are you doing for Christmas?’
The tradition of the Bring Your Own (BYO) Picnic Lunch on Christmas Day was suggested in 2006 by Lise Saugeres, a French migrant who had moved to Melbourne to Sue Ellson, the Founder and Director of Newcomers Network an independent social enterprise providing information, events and advocacy for newcomers since 2001.
Ms Ellson had moved from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1994 so she knew what it was like not to have family around on Christmas Day. On 25 December 2006, Ms Ellson and Ms Saugeres hosted the very first Christmas Day BYO Picnic Lunch in Catani Gardens, St Kilda (Victoria) and in 2007, the group moved to the Queen Victoria Gardens next to St Kilda Road and opposite the National Gallery of Victoria.
In 2016, Sue Ellson will be hosting the 11th Christmas Day BYO Picnic Lunch in Melbourne. Ms Ellson has also coordinated annual events in Sydney since 2010, Perth since 2010, Brisbane since 2011 and Adelaide since 2013.
The confirmed events for Christmas Day, Sunday 25 December 2016 across Australia are listed at https://newcomersnetwork.eventbrite.com.au
These events are open to everyone, but are specifically designed for people who have moved to the city, international students, tourists and anyone who is a Christmas Orphan and is away from their family or friends on Christmas Day.
In the past, the events have also welcomed local people including single parents and their children, older singles, young singles, couples looking for something different to do, carers of people with a disability, people with dogs on a lead, people whose parents have passed away, homeless people who do not want to be at a charity venue and people who have not received an invitation to join a celebration with anyone they know.
Interestingly, the events have also attracted people who do not celebrate Christmas as a religious occasion (Muslim, Hindus, Buddhists etc) but would like to do something different in their local city.
This event is free to attend and anyone who would like to join is welcome. Guests need to bring their own refreshments (food and drink) that they can either have themselves or share with other guests. They are also encouraged to wear their own name tag (any type will do – even just paper and a pin), be sun smart (hat, sunscreen, shirt) and bring a football, frisbee, cricket bat and ball or any other outdoor activities as well.
Everyone mixes and mingles and in 2009, two single people met, in 2010 they spent Christmas together holidaying in the Grampians, in 2012 they announced their engagement and they were married in 2014. In 2016, they will be attending the Melbourne picnic with their one year old daughter. In some cities, there is a small group of regulars who now come every year.
Guests are encouraged to register online to see the map details – even if it rains, the event will still be on (just bring an umbrella or a raincoat!).
Contact information Sue Ellson (pronouned Sue “Ell – son” – no letter ‘i’ in the middle)
Founder and Director of Newcomers Network
+61 402 243 271
sueellson [at] newcomersnetwork.com
Newcomers Network is an independent, social enterprise funded by consulting services provided by Sue Ellson in Melbourne with volunteer representatives in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia providing information, events and advocacy for newcomers to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide since 2001.
More background information for journalists
Christmas Day Picnic Lunch Videos
– fun spy version
– longer descriptive version
What sorts of people do not have something to do on Christmas Day?
…many Australians kindly donate their time before Christmas and on the day to people who are homeless but surprisingly, there are many other people who need companionship on Christmas Day. Most people at work will ask you ‘what are you doing for Christmas’ or ‘what did you do for Christmas’ so it is really nice to be able to say that you enjoyed a nice relaxed picnic in the park.
Many places are closed on Christmas Day or are very expensive. So we have found all sorts of people who join us at these events including migrants without local families, expatriates, international students, singles, single parents who have been ostracised by friends and family, people with disabilities, people with dogs, local people and families who have family interstate or overseas.
Anyone who attends a free event is generally motivated to have a great time and is willing to chat.
What about shy people who may be coming on their own?
…it takes a lot of courage for people to attend an event on their own. But once they are there, they will be welcomed and encouraged to mix and mingle with the other guests there. It is important to simply talk or even just ask questions – start with easy topics like the weather or ‘what do you love about this city’ and the rest will follow (don’t start with questions about where you work or live).
How is the food worked out?
Everyone just brings some food that they can either eat themselves or share with others. At the first picnic, one young male student came with an egg sandwich. At another, a woman came with a large bag of fresh prawns! Sharing your food gives you an opportunity to meet more people. Children can bring along sports equipment to play with and pets are welcome provided they are on a lead.
Do people drink alcohol?
Some people do bring alcohol and drink it but no one has ever become intoxicated and there is no obligation to drink alcohol.
Do people who are not Christian attend?
Yes, this is an event open to anyone who would like to attend. It is held on a ‘religious’ day – Christmas Day – remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. However, we have welcomed people of all faiths including Islamic women wearing the hijab.
We have also had people with disabilities (including intellectual) who find the normal indoor environment and family gathering stressful. And many others – students, expatriates, migrants, tourists etc
What about people from the LGBTI community?
In 2014 we had a call from Anne, a community development officer in Brisbane asking if the event would be open to people who identify as LGTBI. I simply told her that anyone who would like to attend can attend. Apparently there was a local venue that had previously hosted an event but due to a lack of numbers, decided not to run it again.
How do people find the group?
The group will be meeting in various locations listed above and guests just need to look for the group of people wearing name tags between 12pm and 3pm.
Is there anything else they need to bring?
Your own name tag and all the standard things for a picnic – a mat, chair if you wish, hat, sunscreen, water to drink etc. The dress code is ‘informal’ or ‘relaxed.’ Just be sun smart.
Where are you based Sue Ellson? I am based in Melbourne, Australia and I was once told that I am a ‘refugee’ from Adelaide. I am originally from Adelaide and moved to Melbourne in 1994. I love Melbourne and don’t plan to move.
As an Australian, I can say that we are friendly people but we don’t always make time for new people to come into our life. Unlike other expatriate locations, we do not have a range of expatriate communities as you are expected, when you live in Australia, to mix with the locals. I have personally found that most of my friends come from other countries and I find that other newcomers find friends in a similar way although many would really like to mix with other Aussies.
Why did you set up Newcomers Network?
As a result of my own experience and challenges of moving from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1994. Newcomersnetwork.com has been online since 2001 and we share information, details of events and advocate for the needs associated with newcomers.
I am an independent publisher of information and support the enterprise through other consulting work helping people find work, updating their LinkedIn profile, training, marketing and business advice for various businesses and professional associations. I also teach at various educational facilities and have written three books.
I love helping newcomers because I believe that they are more courageous than people who climb Mount Everest.
Why are they more courageous?
Well they simply leave everything they know, all their networks, friends, family, work, social, sporting etc and start all over again. Their food, housing, transport, shopping – everything is different.
It can be incredibly lonely, stressful on relationships (when you rely on just a few people rather than extended family and friends) and it takes time to regain this level of support. Like any challenge in life, if you apply a strategy rather than react emotionally, you have a much higher chance of success.
What other options are available for newcomers on Christmas Day?
There are various groups hosted by relocation companies, some ethnic communities and country chambers. However, one of the best central places to go is www.meetup.com so that people can meet people who share the same passion or interest in life.
In my view, meeting like-minded people is more important than meeting other newcomers whom you may have nothing in common with. I always encourage newcomers to contact their local council and connect with people in their local community. The main thing is to meet people face to face, not just online.
For Christmas Day, you can also do an internet search for ‘Christmas Day 2016’ and also your location – for example, ‘Christmas Day 2016 Melbourne’. Alternatively you can visit event listing websites:
Join us online at
Sue Ellson BBus AIMM MAHRI CDAA (Assoc) ASA MPC
Founder and Director
mobile/cell +61 402 243 271
landline +61 3 9888 6480 (prior to 11am Christmas Day)
started 1999 established 2001