Melbourne was fraught with tension on Australia Day as ‘change the date’ protesters clashed with alt-right nationalists – while Sydney was a picture of serenity with thousands relaxing on the beach.
An ‘Invasion Day’ rally demanding the date of Australia Day be changed brought Melbourne’s inner-city to a screeching halt on Saturday afternoon.
Thousands of Indigenous Australian sympathisers were greeted by far-right counter-protesters holding a demonstration at the city’s iconic Federation Square.
Crowd of 5,000 demonstrators: Invasion Day protesters gather at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne on Australia Day 2019
A tale of two cities: Thousands of Australians packed Sydney’s Bondi Beach to beat the heat this Australia Day
Clash: Protesters and counter-protesters have clashed during an ‘Invasion Day’ rally in Melbourne on Australia Day
Melbourne: Australian Aborigines and their supporters stage a protest against Australia Day on Saturday afternoon
Police were quick to pounce when a small group of opposing protesters clashed in Melbourne on Saturday
Sydney: Dozens of Australian flags waved in the wind as revellers took to the shallow waters of the beach to pose for photos (left). Others temporarily tattooed the iconic blue, white and red flag on their bodies as they went for a dip (right)
Sydney: While plumes of smoke billow from barbecues in backyards, thousands chose to ditch the snag in bread for sand and a swim
Up to 5,000 protesters draped in Aboriginal flags began what was billed as a ‘peaceful protest’ by pushing their way through a police line at the head of Bourke Street.
From there, they marched towards the Yarra River, chanting: ‘Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.’
They say it is wrong to celebrate Australia Day on the day the British settlers arrived at land inhabited by indigenous people and want the date changed.
A counter-protest mustered fewer than 100 participants who were shrouded in Australian flags at the steps of Federation Square.
One man was holding a placard reading: ‘To defend my country was once called patriotism now it’s called racism.’
That same slogan was read at a rally designed to protest African gang crime at St Kilda beach only weeks earlier.
At the foot of Federation Square, a pair of protesters clad in the Australian flag clashed with those marching from the northern end of the city, before they were pounced on by the throngs of police.
One of the men was dragged to the ground before being frog-marched off by police, another couple also told to move on by police shortly after.
The event started with a minute’s silence and speeches rallying against Aboriginal deaths in custody, the abolition of public drunkenness laws, calling for an end to children being taken from family care and a spate of aboriginal child suicides.
Melbourne: A group of about 5,000 people were actively marching through the street in favour of changing the date of Australia Day
Melbourne: One banner at the protest read ‘Australia is a crime scene’ and another said: ‘Respect existence or expect resistance’
Melbourne: Thousands marched with a banner reading ‘change the date or we still won’t celebrate’
Meanwhile in Sydney, thousands of Australians flocked to Bondi Beach to beat the heat this Australia Day.
While plumes of smoke billow from barbecues in backyards, thousands chose to ditch the snag in bread for sand and a swim.
Hoping for some refuge from the scorching 33C in the city, hordes of bikini-clad revellers with umbrellas shading them from the sun’s harsh rays put lifeguards on edge as they filled the beach.
Many beachgoers got into the festivities, donning bikinis with the Australian flag emblazoned on them.
Others took it a step further, temporarily tattooing the iconic blue, white and red emblem on their bodies as they went for a dip.
Sydney: Some had sought to go for a swim in between meals, while others parked up for a spot of beach cricket
A customary Australian tradition, many found a small patch of sand to dig some plastic stumps into for a spell of beach cricket, while many others just took in the rays.
Regardless of whether they were at the beach to frolic, tan or play, Bondi’s iconic lifeguards were working overtime keeping everyone safe.
Australia Day itself has become a contentious issue as some believe the day enforces a false narrative.
The day is held in honour of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships.
However, there is a growing number of Australians who believe the day has become a symbol of inequality and institutionalised harm.
Protests advocating for changing the date of Australia Day from January 26 have become established in all Australian cities, with growing support for them each year.
Sydney: With temperatures sitting in the low 30s and the searing sun pouring down on revellers, many went out to seek shade