Canberra: Tens of thousands of people attended “Invasion Day” rallies held across Australia’s major cities, calling for changing or abolishing the date as the country celebrates Australia Day.
In Melbourne, a large crowd assembled outside the state’s Parliament House on Thursday morning, holding placards and the Indigenous flag, with loud cheers breaking out, reports Xinhua news agency.
“I believe that January 26 should be recognized as a day of mourning, as opposed to Australia Day celebration, because it’s not a celebration for the indigenous people,” one of the protesters, Amilia, told Xinhua.
“I think this day represents a massive genocide that happened to our First Nations, indigenous Aboriginal Australians… Some people think we can change the date, but most people just want to abolish the date or change it to a day of mourning where people can actually cry and remember what actually happened instead of celebrate.”
According to local media reports, similar scenes were seen across Australia’s other major capital cities.
In Sydney, thousands of protesters packed into Belmore Park. Marchers were seen carrying placards that read: “stop the genocide”.
A candlelight dawn service began in Brisbane at 4 a.m. local time in Musgrave Park, followed by a flag-raising ceremony at Jagera Community Hall.
The crowd kicked off the Invasion Day march around 11.30 a.m., with protesters chanting: “End black deaths in custody!”
Since 1994, Australia Day has been marked on January 26 as a national public holiday in every state and territory.
However, on January 26, 1788, Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Sydney Cove to claim the land as a British Colony.
The celebration is regarded as a painful reminder of the beginning of British colonization and the dispossession of First Nations peoples.
The public holiday referred to as “Invasion Day” for the indigenous communities has sparked heated debates and rallies in recent years calling for a change or abolishment of the date to make the national day more inclusive of Indigenous Australians.