Australians protest for indigenous rights on 'Invasion Day'
Thousands rallied against the mistreatment of Indigenous people across Australia on Wednesday as citizenship ceremonies took place to mark the country's national day intended to celebrate the birth of modern Australia.
According to Press TV, the Jan. 26 public holiday marks the date the British fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788 to start a penal colony, viewing the land as unoccupied despite encountering settlements.
But for many Indigenous Australians, who trace their lineage on the continent back 50,000 years, it is "Invasion Day."
Many protesters at rallies across cities dressed in black to mourn the day, with some carrying the Aboriginal flag and "change the date" signs. Some protests were organized online amidst concerns of surging COVID-19 cases.
A monument depicting Captain James Cook, who arrived in the Pacific 252 years ago triggering British colonization of the region, was doused in red paint overnight in Melbourne.
Speaking at the national flag-raising and citizenship ceremony in Australia's capital, Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison honored the traditional custodians of the country.
"We recognize Indigenous peoples right across our land from the Torres Strait Islander people in the north, to the people in Tasmania, to the people across the Nullarbor in Perth and the Larrakia people in the Top End," Morrison said.
"Like the country itself, Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are diverse, they're unique and they connect us through time."
While the Australian Day remains contentious, this week's poll by the market research company Roy Morgan showed nearly two-thirds of Australians say that Jan. 26 should be considered "Australia Day". The rest say it should be "Invasion Day."
Australia's 700,000 or so Indigenous people track near the bottom of its 25 million citizens in almost every economic and social indicator. Living often in remote communities, they also have been at greater risk from COVID.
Most of the 200 or so Aboriginal communities spread across Western Australia are closed to tourists and travelers.