Protesters march against invasion

January 30, 2010

Despite rumours of a council ban, the annual January 26 Invasion Day rally and march from Parliament House to Musgrave Park went ahead, as it has done for more than 30 years.

March leader Coco Wharton told the crowd at Musgrave Park:"[Lord Mayor of Brisbane] Campbell Newman tried to tell us to walk on the footpath. Then they tried to tell us we had to walk over … the Goodwill Bridge, not the Victoria Bridge as we've always done. We walked straight through 'em!",.

About 200 people — Indigenous and non-indigenous — listened to speeches at Parliament House.

Murri leader and Socialist Alliance activist Sam Watson described January 26 as an "important date" for Aboriginal people, a day on which members of the original Aboriginal nations assert their independence and custodianship of their land.

He said a lot more needed to be done by the government before an appropriate national day could be decided on.

"If Australia wants to do anything appropriate to celebrate nationhood, number one they must sign a treaty with the Indigenous people and number two they must (set up) a process by which we will design a new flag that stands for something more inclusive", he said.

Other speakers at the rally raised the issues of discrimination in healthcare provision, the racist Northern Territory intervention and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Paul Spearim moved the crowd with his description of the racism he encounters on a daily basis because of his Aboriginality.

"This aint no Australia Day. I'm not Australian ... There might be one day when I can walk down the street with my people at my side and say that I'm a proud Aussie. But I can't if I don't feel like it."

Minor scuffles broke out at the entrance to Victoria Bridge when police unsuccessfully attempted to restrict the march to the footpath.

Protesters' chants of "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land!" competed with the clamour of a 21 gun salute, part of official "Australia Day" celebrations.

The march ended in Musgrave Park where the 'Rage Against Racism' festival, featuring traditional Aboriginal performances and guest speakers, was held.

In Hobart, Jennifer Wakefield and Tim Dobson report that about 150 Tasmanian Aboriginals and their supporters marched on January 26 to both commemorate the Aboriginal lives lost after the British invasion of 1788 and protest the fact that the invasion is celebrated as Australia Day.

Spokesperson Nala Mansell-McKenna said: "January 26 commemorates the day the British first stepped on Australian soil. Their aim was to rid themselves of the Aboriginal race, and to do so they raped, murdered, invaded and thieved.

It's the date the whites took everything and we lost the lot, how could any reasonable person celebrate such a tragedy?"

The rally was addressed by local Aboriginal activists Jim Everett, Sara Maynard, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Legal Secretary Michael Mansell and Socialist Alliance activists Melanie Barnes and Jenny Forward.

Barnes told the crowd "We must understand why the major parties don't want to change the date. To do so would require honesty about the foundation of the Australian nation, that is, it's founded on rape, murder, theft, genocide and dispossession.
To recognise this would mean you would be required to do a lot more than change the national day."

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