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Australia Day holiday sparks nationwide Invasion Day protests

Australia Day holiday sparks nationwide Invasion Day protests Protests in Australia (Getty Images)

Thousands of people in Australia protest their national day, Australia Day, on Friday in solidarity with Indigenous communities. They call protests Invasion Day rally, urging the government to either stop celebrating or choose a different date, according to Reuters and The Guardian.

Australia Day

Australia Day on January 26 marks the day when Britain created a penal colony in New South Wales. In 1788, they arrived in the place that is the capital city of Sydney now, bringing colonists and convicts with the First Fleet.

Every state and territory observes it as an official public holiday, marked by community festivals and concerts. Many Australians celebrate with barbecues and beach trips. It is a popular day for immigrants to become Australian citizens.

Invasion Day rally

But many Indigenous Australians, who make up 3.8% of the nation's 26 million people, see the holiday as the beginning of injustices that European colonization brought. In Sydney, thousands of protesters gathered for an Invasion Day rally and march, closing streets in the city center. Gatherings echoed with chants of "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land," alongside messages like "Ceasefire now" and "We all want peace".

Australia Day holiday sparks nationwide Invasion Day protestsProtests in Australia (Getty Images)

Similar rallies happened in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Hobart. In Brisbane's demonstration, attendees overflowed Queen's Gardens, displaying signs "Not a date to celebrate" and "No justice, no peace". In Melbourne, two statues of colonial figures were vandalized ahead of the holiday. The organizer of the Invasion Day rally praised those who removed Captain Cook from a statue.

Aboriginal elder Adrian Burragubba says he attended the protests to show Australia Day means nothing to Indigenous Australians and notes that it is a day of Aboriginal sovereignty.

"Not the right day to be celebrating a national day," adds Sydney protester James Cummings.

Indigenous Australians, who have been on the land for at least 65,000 years, regularly face challenges like poor health, education, and high incarceration rates.

Calls to change the date are ignored by the governing Labor Party led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Albanese sees Australia Day as a chance to reflect on the nation's achievements. He said this day is "our chance to pause and reflect on everything that we have achieved as a nation".