‘Invasion Day’ protests draw thousands on Australia’s national day

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Thousands of Australians attended “Invasion Day” rallies across the country yesterday calling for a rethink of national day celebrations they say are disrespectful to indigenous people.

The annual January 26 Australia Day holiday commemorates the arrival of the first British settlers in 1788, but for many Australians it marks the beginning of colonial oppression of Aboriginal people.

Several thousand joined the annual march in Melbourne yesterday chanting “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”, and holding placards stating “Australia is a crime scene”.

Thousands more joined similar demonstrations in major cities around the country, calling for a change of date, or for the day to be abolished altogether.

“Why would you want to celebrate this concept called Australia? It is founded on lies, founded on genocide, founded on murder,” Melbourne protestor Dominic Guerrera told AFP. “There’s nothing to celebrate in that.”

Divisions have deepened in recent years with increasing calls to change the date.

Amid the heightened sensitivities this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced government funding of a voyage to mark the 250th anniversary of explorer Captain James Cook’s first journey to Australia.

Canberra pledged about USD6.5 million to a circumnavigation of Australia in a replica of Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, which in 1770 brought the British into contact with eastern Australia and foreshadowed the colonisation of the continent.