Australia Day protests draw thousands


As rapping lyrics calling Australia's national day "Invasion Day" thousands of people gathered in Sydney to protest against Australia's public holiday on Tuesday.

The date is a sensitive one: January 26th is the anniversary of the arrival of the British First Fleet to Australia in 1788 and for many indigenous Australians, it marks the start of mistreatment of Indigenous people in Australia.

For elder Aunty Shirley, it brings a sense of grief: "This country is, was and always will be, Aboriginal land. White Australia is, was, and always will be a penal colony."

Every year, protests have grown calling for the date to be changed.

On Tuesday, some held signs saying "walking on stolen land" and chanted "always has, always will be Aboriginal land," others took a kneel and for protesters like Tara Drydem the day was about showing solidarity to Indigenous Australians:

"January 26 is rooted in Australian history. It's a stain on Australian history and it's time we made movement for it. It's not the date to celebrate."

Authorities warned protesters that they risked arrest if they defied state COVID-19 health orders to limit gatherings to 500 people.

But in a last minute compromise with police, thousands were allowed to gather in socially distanced groups in a Sydney park as the annual march was called off.

A handful of protesters were arrested but the protest was largely peaceful.

Organiser Gwenda Stanley was proud to see the overwhelming turnout.

"Great turn out and really respect and the turnout was amazing to see."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia Day represents how far the country has come since the First Fleet arrived, and told a ceremony that quote "for better and worse, it was the moment where the journey to our modern nation began."