About 250 protesters gathered outside Redfern Community Centre on January 26 to listen to Aboriginal leaders speak out against the Northern Territory intervention and ongoing attacks on Aboriginal self-determination.
The event was organised by the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).
Speakers included Valerie Martin Napaljarra, based in Kalkaringi in the Northern Territory; Greens councillor Irene Doutney; and Graham Merritt of STICS.
All said it was inappropriate and offensive that Australia's national day, January 26, celebrates the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 — a date which marks the beginning of genocide for Aboriginal people.
They suggested the day should be renamed Survival Day or even Genocide Day and be declared a national day of mourning.
At the Redfern protest, Elder Aunty Nora, from the Sydney suburb of La Perouse near Botany Bay — where Captain James Cook supposedly first set foot on Australia — described meeting New South Wales opposition leader Barry O'Farrell. "I asked him if he's ever been to La Perouse," she said. "He said 'no'."
O'Farrell looks almost certain to win the state election on March 26.
Police officers, some of whom observed proceedings closely from a marked police car flying the southern cross flag, expressed surprise at the size of the protest. “So much for only 16 people turning out,” said one.
The speakers and protesters then marched from The Block in Redfern to Yabun Aboriginal Festival in Victoria Park.
At the end of the march, one Aboriginal protester shouted at the police: "I read the deaths in custody statistics the other day. Did you read them too? Or did you cause them?” `
The protesters went on to enjoy a day of talks, workshops, cultural activities and Yabun’s best line-up of Aboriginal musical talent in its nine years, including Wilma Reading, Casey Donovan, Nekrofeist and The Medics.
The Tasmanian aboriginal affairs minister and Greens’ leader, Nick McKim, has also written to his federal counterpart, Jenny Macklin, asking her to consider an alternative date for Australia’s national day.
Tasmania's new Labor premier, Lara Giddings, defended McKim’s actions in writing to Macklin. She told the ABC on January 27: "He's quite in his rights to write to his counterpart at the Federal level with his position on an issue, asking for her input on that debate."
Giddings acknowledged that for many Aboriginal people, Australia Day was a day of pain.
Macklin has ruled out changing the date of Australia Day.
More than 300 Aboriginal protesters gathered outside Parliament House in Hobart on January 26, calling for Australia Day to be moved to another date.
"A coffin was carried through the crowd and placed on the steps of Parliament to symbolise lives lost," reported the ABC.
In Melbourne, former prime minister Kevin Rudd's nephew took to Brighton Beach to protest against Australia's treatment of Aborigines and refugees, said AAP.
As swimmers crossed the finish line for the Great Australia Day Swim at the Middle Brighton Pier, artist Van Thanh Rudd and his small crew held up a banner that read: "Where indigenous people and refugees finish last."