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What's free in Melbourne over the Labour Day long weekend

The Labour Day long weekend on 10-12 March should be about enjoying life away from work to the max. In the post-summer financial doldrums? Minimise the cost with these free events.

Moomba Festival 2018

Australia’s largest community festival returns for yet another long weekend filled with fun and bursting with colour. Highlights of Moomba Festival 2018 include perennial favourites the Birdman Rally and the Moomba Parade, which follows a new route this year. There’s heaps of stuff that kids will love, from Woody’s Ukulele School to carnival rides on both sides of the river. Everyone will enjoy the nightly fireworks and feast of food options, from fairy-floss carts to gourmet food trucks. Here’s the full program. Friday 9 to Monday 12 March.

Crowds of people watching travelling floats at a street parade


The Butterfly Club’s Fab Fridays

A cosy temple of camp, kitsch and nostalgic entertainment, The Butterfly Club is a revolving door of cabaret, comedy, burlesque and more. Swing by for the free, late-night Fab Fridays piano bar session. The piano man takes requests and accompanies audience members with a song to sing, and cast from the big musicals sometimes drop by. You could find yourself rubbing sequinned shoulders with the gals from Priscilla! Friday nights from 10.30pm.

Casa Tropical at Section 8

Section 8, Melbourne’s original laneway container bar, is home to some of Melbourne’s best free parties. Head down this Saturday afternoon for Casa Tropical, a weekend session in the sunshine, with house beats from local legends Rev Lon (Dancing Therapy), Sam Cannon (Rhapsodise) and more.

A crowd of people at a laneway bar

Section 8

NGV exhibitions – closing 12 March!

The Labour Day long weekend is your last chance to see Louise Paramor: Palace of the Republic. This exhibition unites her colourful plastic sculptures created over the past decade with paper sculptures commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria. Together, they reveal her sense of play and experimentation with colour, volume and scale.
The clock is also ticking on Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco. This exhibition is a survey of new and recent work by the double Archibald Prize winner. The focus is on paintings and drawings, but examples of her collage, sculpture, textiles and film also reveal Barton’s sensuous, psychedelic aesthetic.

a collection of artwork

Louise Paramor: Palace of the Republic

Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival

The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival isn’t all about big-ticket events. Entry to The Plaza Festival hub at the Royal Exhibition Building is free, as is much of what’s on offer. Live entertainment. Photo ops. Beauty tips and touch-ups. A curated pop-up showcasing local emerging labels, including runway shows. Ooh la la!

Salsa Dancing Class

Start your long weekend on a high with Federation Square’s free Salsa Dancing Class on Friday 9 March. Whether you’re solo or with friends, nine or 90, have two left feet or can two-step with the best, you’re welcome. Every Friday in March, 6 to 7pm.

Australian Music Vault

Like fresh-pressed vinyl, the Australian Music Vault has the scent of something new and exciting, as it only opened in December. This immersive exhibition celebrates contemporary homegrown music, and includes iconic objects from the Australian Performing Arts Collection. It’s got the stamp of approval from the likes of Archie Roach and Kylie, so you know it’s dope.

A man standing in front of an exhibition display

Archie Roach at the launch of the Australian Music Vault

San Antone Smokehouse Festival

Crown’s resident BBQ dealers at San Antone are heading outside and spending four days smoking up a storm on Crown Riverwalk. Starting on 9 March all the way through to Labour Day, you can visit this ode to all things meaty and get a mouthful of beef brisket, smokey ribs, delectable potato salad and more. Entry is free, which means 100% of your pennies can go straight to smokey goodness.

Wine Not?

All rise for the honourable pink nectar we know as rosé, the drink so popular it inspired a light show at this free music series hosted at Arts Centre Melbourne. Every Friday and Saturday between 9 and 24 March Rosé Rosé will be putting on a series of live music performances, replete with an outdoor lounge and dedicated bar serving only the best Australian produced beverages. Head down and kick off your long weekend with a bang and a full bank account.


On your way in to Wine Not, why not take a moment in the Arts Centre forecourt for Enlighten – a weird and wonderful public physical theatre piece. For four nights a mysterious illuminated cube will become home to three ‘angels’, searching for the divine through soundscapes and interactive lighting projections. Stay a while and observe from afar, receive a blessing or even cross into the heavenly realm to become part of the art.

Three people dressed as angels inside a glass box, with colourful lighting.

The three angels of Enlighten

NAB AFL Women’s Competition

Despite lock-outs for the inaugural season last year and big crowds again in 2018, entry to AFLW games is still free. That makes the NAB AFL Women’s matches at Ikon Park an affordable, old-fashioned day at the footy. Well, not totally old-fashioned, because there’s hardly a bloke to be seen on the ground, and meat-pie prices are decidedly 21st century. Next up is Melbourne vs Carlton, Sunday 11 March – game starts at 4.35pm.

Ben Quilty – Notes on Chaos

Through new paintings, sculptures and works on paper, Ben Quilty – Notes on Chaos “flirts with insanity,” according to the Australian artist. This exhibition at Tolarno Galleries is a response to the uncertain times we live in, from global terrorism to vengeful weather.

Two abstract paintings on a white wall with a lizard-esque figure on the floor in front of them.

Ben Quilty’s pieces in ‘Notes on Chaos’