Tens of thousands of people rallied across Australia on Saturday calling for the abolition of the January 26 national holiday in protests showing a deep division over a festivity intended to celebrate the birth of modern Australia.
While Australia Day marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the “First Fleet” of British ships at Sydney Cove, many indigenous Australians, who trace their lineage on the continent back 50,000 years, regard it as “Invasion Day”.
“Today marks the start of colonisation and the start of genocide and you name it,” said Jayden Riley, 17, who was marching in Sydney in a singlet in the black, yellow, and red colours of the Aboriginal flag.
“It is not about refusing to celebrate being Australian. This day represents more than just being Australian to our people. My Nan’s stolen generation, for example, she was taken from her family and brainwashed to be a Catholic – all that sort of stuff, you know.”
At a rally in Sydney stretched along more than half a dozen of city blocks, about 5,000 protesters chanted, “Always was and always will be aboriginal land” and “No pride in genocide.” Protests attended by several thousand people took place in Melbourne, Canberra and other Australian cities.