Thousands attend Invasion Day protests around the country

January 28, 2016
Survival Day protest in Sydney. Photo: Zeb Parkes

Thousands protested at Invasion Day rallies held across the country to remember the First Fleet's arrival at Port Jackson in 1788 and the ensuing genocide of Aboriginal people, racial discrimination and dispossession of their land.

Large crowds gathered at rallies in cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Perth, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide.


One of the biggest protests in many years was in Sydney, where about 3000 protesters marched from Redfern's historic The Block to Sydney Town Hall.

Photos by Zebedee Parkes

Later, there was a silent march to the Australian Hall building in Elizabeth Street where the Aborigines Progressive Association first held a Day of Mourning on January 26, 1938.

Many young, militant Aboriginal voices powerfully affected those who attended.

Ken Canning, from the Indigenous Social Justice Association, told the crowd “Australia Day is a day of mourning” for Aboriginal people.

"People celebrate when it's the beginning of the killing of our people, the loss of language, devastation, disease."

Canning said he wanted Australia Day moved to another date out of respect for Aboriginal Australians.

“I don't mind Australia Day, but they can have it on January 1,” he said.

“This country became the Commonwealth of Australia on January 1, 1901.

“This is when you should have your giant barbecues, grog fests etcetera. Not on the day that marks the killings of the First Nations' Peoples.

“Not on the day sickness, disease and moral decline was introduced to this country and certainly not on the day when war was declared on Aboriginal peoples — a war which saw guns pitted against spears. Oh the brave British.

“No, not on this day. This is a day of mourning, a day of respect.”


Photos by Ali Bakhtiarvandi

An estimated 5000 people rallied at Parliament House in Melbourne to demand justice and land rights for the First Nations. The rally was called by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR).

Crowds took over Swanston street, chanting, "No pride in genocide" and "Treaty: NOW".

Gary Foley spoke to the crowd: "This day marks several important moments in history. It represents the start of the invasion of our country. For the next 150 years the occupation proceeded along with the attempted subjugation of our people.

“It is also the day the Indigenous resistance began that continues to this moment. 1938 was the year that William Cooper named January 26 as a Day of Mourning, what we now know as Invasion Day. Also on this day in 1972 the Aboriginal Embassy on the lawns of Parliament in Canberra was founded.

“We must be vigilant and we must be loud. This battle will not be over until we have achieved justice."

Other speakers said there was still a long way to go until Aboriginal Australians receive equal rights, and called for Australia Day to be moved to another day.


Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Parliament House in Brisbane ahead of a march through the CBD to Musgrave Park.

Many in the crowd held Aboriginal flags and signs calling for sovereignty. One poster read: "Resisting terrorism since 1788", while others demanded an end to forced removal of children from their families and protested the closure of remote communities.

Photo by Bronte Nicole Scott

Ruby Wharton gave an impassioned address to the crowd. She recalled walking alongside Invasion Day protesters as a three-year-old child.

"We're walking in their footsteps today,” she said. “We're chanting the exact same things they did 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.

"Today is not a day to be holding your head down. You hold your head up high."

Another speaker said the site of the protest — the speaker's corner at the edge of the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens — was a traditional dreaming site of local indigenous women.

Adrian Burragubba, who has led a campaign against the Adani-Carmichael coal mine development on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners, also spoke at the rally.

"Our ancestors are still alive in the land. We did not consent, we have not consented," he said.

He ended his speech by telling the Adani Corporation: "Take your mining company back to India."

Fellow activist Pekeri Ruska echoed his anti-mining sentiments, speaking against the mineral exploitation of Stradbroke Island.

Bo Spearim of WAR and an organiser of the Brisbane protest said the term "Australia" was a direct contradiction and denial of the hundreds of tribal countries that exist on the continent, whose sovereignty has never been ceded.

"It is about time that we started our own national discussion on what we want, whether it is treaty, treaties, independence, a seventh state or a republic," he said.

Photo by Liam Kesteven


About 500 people took part in the protest in Hobart, marching through the city before gathering in front of Parliament House. They called on Premier Will Hodgman to put pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to change the date of the national day.

Photo by Shaine Stephen

Bearing Indigenous flags, the crowd marched through Hobart's CBD, chanting "Not my day”. On Parliament's lawn the crowd parted as a wreath was laid to commemorate the Aboriginal people who were killed as a result of white settlement.

Participants at the rally said crowd numbers had dramatically increased in recent years.


Hundreds of people marched in what some people are calling the first "Invasion Day March" in Perth. It was certainly the largest political protest action on January 26 for many years.

Photos by Alex Bainbridge

The march started at Matagarup (Heirisson island) and proceeded through the city finishing at the Perth City Council-organised "Survival Day" concert.

”We're not here to celebrate the white man's invasion,” said Mervyn Eades. "We're not here to celebrate at all.

“We come in mourning for our ancestors, the ones who died — the women and children who were bludgeoned to death by the invaders.

"Celebrate a great day if you think it needs to be celebrated," activist Herbert Bropho told the crowd. "But to me it is a Sorry Day!"

He called on those present to remember the elders who had resisted European invasion and who had kept the dreaming stories alive.

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