At the same time every year, Australians clash over a date on the calendar that some see as a day of celebration and others see as a day of mourning.
This year will be no different.
The January 26 public holiday has in recent years seen thousands of Australians take to the streets to protest against Australia’s national holiday — Australia Day.
The Invasion Day rallies call for, among other things, a changing of the date to reflect the fact that for some it represents more than the beginning of British colonialism when the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788.
They want it to be moved because that same date represents the “continued genocide of Aboriginal people”.
The coronavirus pandemic will this year see Victorians unable to gather for an Australia Day rally because it has been deemed a public health risk by the state government. But Melbourne City Council has approved an Invasion Day Dawn Service.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp says the seated, 250-capacity service at Kings Domain is “a way of supporting an event that reflects that ancient Australian history”.
On social media, calls to scrap Australia Day entirely are being shared in huge numbers.
“I cannot celebrate a country built off the continued genocide of Aboriginal people,” one person wrote.
“A place where Aboriginal people, including children are incarcerated at a higher rate than any people in the world. Where over 445 Aboriginal people have died in police custody since just 1991 with no one held accountable. Where governments and corporations continue to destroy sacred land for their colonial pursuits.
“January 26th and every other day of the year represents continued genocide, mourning, resistance and strength. Until there is meaningful First Nations led change, there will be no right day to celebrate so called Australia. Sovereignty was never ceded.”
Another person wrote that “changing the date isn’t our end game”.
“Changing the outcomes for our people is. However, we cannot change our outcomes until we as a nation COLLECTIVELY acknowledge the past wrongs of history and how they still til this day are affecting our people. Don’t tell us to get over it because it happened 100s of years ago while we continue to remember the ANZACS. Don’t tell us that you didn’t invade Australia when you’re still benefiting from the dispossession and genocide of our people.”
Lidia Thorpe, the first Indigenous woman in Victorian Parliament, is using her platform to call for change.
On Twitter, she wrote: “Too many Australians still think January 26 is a day of celebration, but for Aboriginal people across this country, it’s a Day of Mourning.
“That’s why I’m inviting communities, councils and organisations to fly the Aboriginal flag at half-mast on #InvasionDay.”
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