Thousands protest ‘attack’ as Australia celebrates national day | Indigenous Rights News

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Thousands of people have gathered in cities across Australia, protesting against their country’s national day and rallying support for Aboriginal people, with many reporting on the anniversary of the day the British colonial fleet sailed into Sydney Harbor on “Invasion Day”.

In Sydney, the capital of New South Wales – Australia’s most populous state – a large crowd gathered in the city’s central business district on Thursday, with some people carrying Aboriginal flags and chanting “Australia Day is dead”. “.

Indigenous activist Paul Silva, speaking to the crowd, said that the national holiday should be abolished.

“If someone attacked your home, killed your family, and stole your land, I can guarantee 100 percent that no family would celebrate that day,” he told the the people

“I don’t know how it makes sense for any citizen of this country to go out and have a barbecue and celebrate a genocide,” he said.

Indigenous poet Lizzie Jarrett said Sydney was “no ground for genocide of First Nations people”.

“Do you think we’re angry? Wouldn’t you be angry?” she asked the crowd.

Indigenous Australians have lived on the Australian continent for at least 65,000 years, but have suffered widespread discrimination and oppression since the arrival of the British more than two hundred years ago. Australian historian Lyndall Ryan has estimated that more than 10,000 Aborigines have been killed in 400 separate massacres since British settlement began.

Currently, approximately 880,000 people out of Australia’s population of 25 million identify as Indigenous.

They were barred from voting in some states and territories until the 1960s and lag behind other Australians on economic and social indicators in what the government calls “persistent inequality”.

Their life expectancy is also years shorter than other Australians and they suffer disproportionate rates of suicide, domestic violence and are far more likely to die in police custody.

In Australia’s capital, Canberra, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese celebrated Australia Day with a flag-raising and citizenship ceremony where he honored the country’s Aborigines.

“We will all recognize the unique privilege we have to share this continent with the oldest continuous culture in the world,” said the Prime Minister.

But while he acknowledged it was a “difficult day” for Aboriginal Australians, he said there were no plans to change the date of the holiday.

An annual poll by market research firm Roy Morgan released this week showed almost two-thirds of Australians say January 26 should be considered “Australia Day”, largely unchanged from a year ago. The rest think it should be “Invasion Day”.

Amidst the debate, some companies have embraced flexibility in holiday compliance. The largest telecommunications company in Australia, Telstra, this year gave its employees the opportunity to work on January 26 and take another day off instead.

“For many First Nations, Australia Day… marks a turning point that has seen lives lost, culture diminished, and connections between people and places destroyed,” Telstra chief executive Vicki Brady wrote on LinkedIn.

Anti-Australia Day protests were also held in other Australian state capitals, including Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.

Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke, reporting from the rally in Brisbane, said a movement to abolish Australia Day has grown over the years.

“People here say this is a day of mourning,” she said. “They are gathering in protest against today’s Australian celebrations, on what they believe was a massive movement of First Nations people. So this group is definitely growing in numbers. Opinion polls have shown that the younger generations are more supportive of this.”

People hold a flag as they participate in the annual "The day of the attack" protest march in Sydney
People hold a flag as they take part in the annual ‘Invasion Day’ protest march through the streets of Sydney on Australia Day [Robert Wallace/ AFP]

This year’s holiday also comes as the centre-left Labor Party government in Albanese plans a referendum on recognizing Aboriginal people in the country’s constitution and wants to consult with them. about decisions that affect their lives.

The public will vote on the change – known as Parliament’s Indigenous Voice – in a binding referendum later this year.

There is no mention of Aboriginal Australians in the constitution, which was adopted in 1901. And the proposal to recognize Indigenous Australians in the charter was a promise taken by the Labor Party to the general election last May when it ended almost a decade of Aboriginal Liberalism. – National coalition government.

But changing the constitution is difficult, requiring a majority of votes in a majority of states.

The feat has only happened eight times in 44 attempts since the federation came into existence in 1901.

A successful referendum would bring Australia in line with Canada, New Zealand and the United States in formally recognizing Aboriginal populations.

Some indigenous Australians have also opposed the proposal.

A number of people at the Invasion Day rally in Sydney held a banner that read: “Vote no for referendum. We deserve more than a voice.”

In Melbourne, indigenous activist Uncle Gary Foley said “the voice” would only be “cosmetic”.

“Like lipstick on a pig, it will not address the deep issues that still run through Australian society and white Australian racism is the main issue,” he said.

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