Dramatic scenes have erupted at Invasion Day rallies across the country, with Greens senator and Indigenous rights campaigner Lidia Thorpe declaring ‘this is war’ to a packed crowd.
Protesters have taken to the streets in marches organised in every state and territory on Thursday as many are choosing not to mark the national holiday and are protesting January 26 as Australia’s national day of celebration.
In Melbourne, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe took to the stage at the Victorian Parliament around midday as heaving crowds cheered her on under the scorching heat.
Ms Thorpe, who is an Indigenous woman and the star of Melbourne’s treaty movement, declared war, in the latest example of overheated rhetoric.
‘(It was) a war that was declared on our people more than 200 years ago,” Senator Thorpe said in an extraordinary speech, in which she said black women were still being raped by “them”.
Loud shouts of “shame” met Ms Thorpe’s consecutive declarations, given with red-painted hands symbolising violence and in which she held a “war stick”.
The rally in Sydney was countered by pro-Australia Day demonstrators – wielding ‘I Support Australia Day’ signs – who were quickly moved on from Invasion Day protesters.
Lidia Thorpe brandished a ‘battle stick’ as she addressed a crowd on the steps of the Victorian Parliament
Protesters took to the streets in every state and territory rallying against January 26 as Australia’s national holiday (pictured)
Crowds gather at Belmore Park in Sydney’s CBD for the annual Invasion Day protests
Counter protesters in support of Australia Day stood across the road from the Invasion Day rally holding the Australian flag and placards (pictured)
Police also intervened and asked the group to disperse and said they would be issued with a direction, if they didn’t obey the request.
Speakers in Sydney made calls for Indigenous sovereignty and criticised the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Activist and Dunghutti, Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung woman, Auntie Lizzie Jarrett told attendees to vote no.
‘Liberal, Labor, the system is not for Black People,’ she said as the crowd cheered in response.
‘We don’t want a voice, we have a voice. We don’t want a white wash.
‘When it comes to the time. Vote ‘no’ to the referendum. Don’t come here and tick a box.’
Police swiftly moved the counter protesters along (pictured)
Ms Jarrett also told the NSW Police officers gathered at the rally, that they did not need their protection.
The activist called Australia Day ‘dead’ and likened it to the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
‘We protect each other. This is sovereignty day, Australia Day is dead,’ Ms Jarrett said.
‘Just like queen Lizzie, Australia Day is dead with her. Will you support us? If you do, when that referendum comes around, kick it to the ground like Australia.’
Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi is present at the march and posted images of the smoking ceremony to Twitter.
‘Today I am joining First Nations people to mark 26 January as Invasion Day, as I have for many years. It is a Day of Mourning,’ Ms Faruqi wrote.
‘We are calling for First Nations justice and we are calling for Treaty in this country.’
Greens candidate for the nSW upper house and Wiradjuri woman Linda June Coe labelled the Indigenous Voice to Parliament a ‘fallacy’.
She told the crowd at Belmore Park the Invasion Day rally was a day of reckoning for White Australia.
‘White Australia, this is the reckoning – 235 years and we ain’t going nowhere,’ she said
‘They tried to wipe us out, still here. They tried to breed us out, still here. They tried to commit genocide on us, still here!
‘Brisbane, Melbourne, we are all mobilising against the fallacy that is constitutional recognition. My people, this is the voice.’
A protestor carries a placard showing the Aboriginal flag during an Invasion Day rally in Sydney
Protestors marching from Belmore Park to the Yabun Festival at Victoria Park, Camperdown (pictured)
January 26 is celebrated as Australia Day, marking the arrival of the First Fleet into Australia, marking the colonisation of the country’s Aboriginal people
Indigenous anti-mining activist Adrian Burragubba called the government’s voice plan patronising and a form of assimilation.
‘This is like a paternalistic attitude, all the time, of telling us, ‘We know what’s best for you people and we will tell you what’s right’,’ he said.
‘We don’t want to be assimilated into a constitution written by white people.’
Hundreds of people braced temperatures of 27C wearing clothes bearing the Aboriginal flag.
The theme for Sydney’s rally is ‘sovereignty before voice’ in response to the Federal Government’s Voice to Parliament proposal
The rally opened with a smoking ceremony, followed by traditional dances (pictured) and an acknowledgement of country made by Uncle Dave Bell
Signs read ‘we deserve better than just a voice’ and ‘vote no to referendum’.
The sails of the Sydney Opera House were lit up with Indigenous artwork by proud Kamilaroi woman and artist, Rhonda Sampson, to celebrate First Nations women around the water of Sydney Harbour.
Prior to the protest, hundreds gathered at Barangaroo for the WugulOra morning ceremony to honour First Nations people and reflect on what the day means for them.
An ancient Smoking Ceremony was held to ‘cleanse the way for new beginnings’ and to celebrate the world’s oldest living culture through dance, music and language.
Attendees witnessed special performances by Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander dancers and singers such as the Koomurri Aboriginal Dance Troupe.
A march also kicked off in Canberra at Garema Place, with hundreds of people gathering in the sun at 9.30am.
A sign hung in the park reads ‘Self-determination not incarceration’.
Meanwhile, there was no Australia Day parade throughout the city for the third year running, while thousands of people flocked to the streets to stand in solidarity with First Nations people.
The large crowd assembled outside Victoria’s State Parliament on Bourke Street in the city’s CBD for the annual Invasion Day celebration.
The crowd, which numbered in the thousands, burst into cheers when a speaker declared ‘f**k Australia Day.’
Uncle Gary Foley was the rally’s first speaker, slammed The Voice to parliament proposal labelling it ‘lipstick on a pig.’
In Cairns, protesters started marching from Fogarty Park at 9am and walked through the city with a sign that read ‘Abolish Australia day’.
The crowd could be heard chanting: ‘What do we want? Treaty. When do we want it? Now’.
Protests are planned across every state and territory, with Brisbane set to begin at 10am from Queens Gardens, Hobart from 10.45am, Darwin from 10.30am, Adelaide from midday, Perth from 12pm and Melbourne at 11am from Victoria Parliament House.
Non-Indigenous Australians have been celebrating what is known as ‘Australia Day’ for 29 years.
The day is a historic one which holds deep, cultural significance to Indigenous Australians and is a chance to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.