Tens of thousands of protesters demand change of national day in Australia

January 26, 2017 7:36 pm

People participate in an “Invasion Day” march in Sydney, , January 26, 2016.

Tens of thousands of protesters have staged rallies in major Australian cities to demand a shift of the date of the country’s national day because, according to them, the current date marks the start of an era of injustices suffered by Australia’s disadvantaged Aborigines.
Demonstrators took to the streets of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth on Thursday, demanding that the date of Australia Day, January 26, be changed as it celebrates the arrival of white settlers and the beginning of indigenous suffering and massacre.
The day marks the anniversary of the arrival of first British colonists and the so-called First Fleet of British ships in the country more than two centuries ago, in the year 1788.
Referring to the day as “Invasion Day,” many of the participants in the demonstrations were wearing black, yellow, and red, the colors of the aboriginal flag.
“I’m here to commemorate all the aboriginal people who were murdered during the first stage of settlement,” a protester said.
Hundreds of others also staged a sit-in protest outside the Parliament House in the Australian capital of Canberra.
New South Wales State police said that a 20-year-old man had been arrested and a police officer and protester had sustained injuries during the Thursday rallies in Sydney although the demonstrations were mostly peaceful.
Delivering a speech in Melbourne, Ian Macfarlane, a former minister who retired from politics last year, suggested that Australia commemorate March 1, 1901 as its national day. The date was when a newly-created Australian federal government took over many of the functions of the six British colonies that preceded it.
“It’s about healing a wound, drawing a line, getting on with the really important issues facing our indigenous communities,” he said.
Aboriginal Australians have long been subjected to genocide, forced permanent removal, dispossession, racial discrimination, and the destruction of their land.

Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks at a press conference in Sydney, December 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Australia PM rules out date change
Reacting to the protests, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he did not support a change of the date of Australia Day.
“Everyone is entitled to a point of view, but I think most Australians accept January 26 as Australia Day,” he said.
“It is a day where we celebrate the rich diversity of all of our cultures — from our First Australians… to the new citizens, migrants who come from such diverse range of countries,” Turnbull said.
Aborigines comprise three percent of Australia’s population. Australia’s nearly 700,000 indigenous citizens rank near the bottom of almost every economic and social indicator for the country’s 23 million people.
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