Gwen Williams-Heckling travelled for 10 hours to attend the Sydney rally. (ABC News: Isabella Higgins)
Rallies are being held across the country to oppose the celebration of Australia Day on January 26, which protesters say should be a day of mourning.
- Australia Day is considered a day of mourning by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people
- Demonstrators are calling for a rethink on how the day is celebrated
- Protesters have gathered at a statue of Captain Cook in London
Invasion Day or Survival Day demonstrations have gained momentum in recent years and coincided with a push to move Australia Day to a date considered more inclusive.
January 26 marks the anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival in Port Jackson, New South Wales, which is regarded by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians as the beginning of colonial oppression.
Thousands of people have gathered, or are gathering, for Invasion Day rallies in the nation’s capital cities including Sydney, where demonstrators have congregated in a packed Hyde Park.
Many protesters are wearing T-shirts featuring the Aboriginal flag, and are carrying signs and placards.
The rally started with a smoking ceremony before speakers made a plea to stop black deaths in custody and increase Aboriginal ownership of land.
Thousands have packed into Sydney’s Hyde Park to protest against Australia Day. (ABC News: Isabella Higgins)
Bundjalung elder Gwen Williams-Heckling travelled for 10 hours from Casino in NSW’s north to attend the rally.
“January 26 is a bad day, a hurtful day, but we come here for solidarity,” she said.
“Together we draw strength and celebrate our continuing culture despite our dispossession.
“We need a new day because we can never celebrate the day of invasion.”
London demonstrators gather at Captain Cook statue
This year, the protests have again gone global, with a group in London gathering at the statue of Captain Cook at The Mall, holding placards with such words as “no pride in genocide” and “sovereignty never ceded”.
Protesters opposed to Australia Day gather at the statue of Captain James Cook in The Mall in London. (Twitter: James Taylor / London Australia Solidarity)
The group, London Australia Solidarity, said it stood “with First Nations people”.
“London is the seat of empire and represents the beginning of colonialism,” the group tweeted.
Large rallies are also expected in Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart where protesters have marched along Elizabeth Street, headed for the Parliament House lawns.
In Adelaide, a Survival Day event has been organised at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide’s CBD.
Institute chief executive Dennis Stokes said while many might regard the event as an occasion for shame, it was not necessarily meant to be confrontational.
Many people in Sydney’s Hyde Park wore shirts featuring the Aboriginal flag. (ABC News: Sarah Collard)
Mr Stokes said it was instead focused on cross-cultural understanding.
“We don’t see it as a protest, we see it as an inclusive event for the whole community, not just the Indigenous community, and we want to highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture,” he said.
“We just show that we’re here, we survived and our culture has survived as well.
“We want people to come down, especially non-Indigenous people, we want them to come down and have a look and see what we do.”
The words Abolish Australia Day have been projected onto a monument in London. (Twitter: @x_feral / London Australia Solidarity)
Mr Stokes said Tandanya — which is described as Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre — did not have a firm view on whether Australia Day should fall on another date.
“People have differences of opinion. Most people think that it’s a day that should be changed but I think if we have a healthy debate about it we can figure out what to do,” he said.