By PETER HACKNEY
Several thousand people have gathered to oppose Australia Day at a largely trouble-free protest in The Domain, Central Sydney, today.
Police told organisers of this morning’s rally that they could gather but not march through the CBD – a decree honoured by the organisers – although a handful of arrests were made at nearby Hyde Park.
Police made five arrests at around midday, alleging the five had breached Covid-19 public health orders by marching through the park.
NSW Police estimated 2000-3000 people attended the main rally in The Domain, which was not granted an exemption from Covid-19 public health orders which limit protests in Sydney to 500 people.
Earlier, NSW Government government figures, including Premier Gladys Berejilkian, stated their opposition to the event, warning attendees they could be fined and arrested if they participated.
However, after negotiatons between protest organisers and police, police used their discretion to allow a seated, two-hour event to go ahead in The Domain.
The Domain rally heard that Australia Day in its current form was “illegitimate”, and there were numerous calls for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died in police and prison custody.
While there were repeated calls for the date of Australia Day (AKA ‘Invasion Day’) to be changed, due to its commemoration of 26 January, 1788 – the date British settlement began in Australia – others said Australia Day should be abolished altogether.
Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, a member of the Bundjalung people in northern New South Wales, told the crowd changes were desperately needed in the courts and child protection sphere, and that Australia Day should be “completely abolished”.
“We have an authority and a police force that abused their power,” Ms Turnbull-Roberts said.
“We will achieve liberation in this country,” she maintained, opining that it was just a matter of time before Australia Day was consigned to history.
Greens MP David Shoebridge praised the young Aboriginal activists who organised the rally.
“You have come here today, Covid-safe, peaceful,” he said, in his address to the crowd.
The Domain event was one of a number of similar events held in capital cities and large regional centres across the country.
Most events were incident-free, although at the Canberra rally, a man donning Australian and US nationalistic paraphernalia – including an Australian flag and a Make America Great Again (MAGA) cap – was forcibly ejected by protestors.
Meanwhile, Lidia Thorpe, the first Indigenous woman in Victorian parliament, used social media 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.”
Thorpe called on “communities, councils and organisations to fly the Aboriginal flag at half-mast” on what she, and many others, referred to as “Invasion Day”.