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Invasion Day protests held around country as debate over Australia Day continues
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Invasion Day protests held around country as debate over Australia Day continues

Agency News

Canberra, Jan 26: Thousands of protesters gathered around the country on Saturday, calling for changes to the way the nation marks Australia Day.

January 26 marks the anniversary of Captain Arthur Philip arriving with the First Fleet in Port Jackson, New South Wales, a date now seen by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as "Invasion Day" or "Survival Day".

Those at Saturday's rallies said the day marks the theft and dispossession of Indigenous people, and should not be celebrated, an ABC News report said.

They gathered by the thousands throughout Australia, holding up banners on the steps of Parliament House in Victoria, marching through Hyde Park in Sydney and converging on Brisbane's CBD.

Hundreds of people stand on a natural amphitheatre, each raising one fist in the air.

As thousands of others spent the day celebrating Australian culture, some of those protesting said they wanted the national holiday's date changed, while others called for Australia Day to be abolished altogether.

Aboriginal woman Lareesa, who attended the Melbourne event with her family, said this year was the first she attended an Invasion Day event.

She said she was in favour of abolishing Australia Day altogether.

A woman sits holding a hand-written sign saying "today is a day of mourning".

"No matter what day you change it to it'll still be a day of oppression and mourning for us, so I think deleting it all together is the way to go," she said.

Malachi, who marched with his wife and son, said he was representing his Aboriginal heritage and was calling for a change of date.

"I feel we need to still celebrate everyone being together as well, I'm still happy to celebrate Australia Day as long as it's on another day and under a different name," he said.

"I just feel like the Aboriginal culture is not being recognised," he said.

Two people stand with indigenous flag t-shirts in Melbourne.

Bundjalung woman Deekeala Glew, who attended the Brisbane rally, said Australia Day should be celebrated on December 17, the date when in 1965 all Indigenous people were given the right to vote.

"[January 26] is a day of genocide and there is no pride in that," she said.

A woman wearing a headband with the Aboriginal flag on it.

Ms Glew said the turnout at the rally was heartening. "I'm proud, I'm proud we've all come together like this," she said.

The protest took place just metres from where today's official Australia Day parade festivities will take place.

Many protesters carried banners and large props with slogans like "no pride in genocide", while dozens of police monitored the area.

A giant Aboriginal flag is carried by members of a large crowd as they walk across a bridge as part of a protest.

In Sydney, more than 5,000 gathered in Hyde Park and listened to Indigenous leaders speak about the pain caused by the national holiday being held on January 26.

The rally then turned into a 2-kilometre march from the park, with the streets filled with a sea of Aboriginal flags, placards and people.

As the march moved through the city, bringing traffic to a standstill on some of the busiest streets, the protesters loudly chanted "always was, always will be Aboriginal land".

Emily Wightman-Gala, 21, said she came to the rally because she would like to see the date of the national holiday moved. "It's insensitive, and a difficult day for my family," she said.

The mood was sombre in the Perth CBD where hundreds were calling for changes to the way Australia Day is celebrated.

There were speeches and musical performances at the Invasion Day rally and participants marched through the city to the Supreme Court Gardens, where others were gathering for the annual fireworks display.

On Friday, about two dozen people gathered on Westminster Bridge near the Houses of Parliament in London to protest against Australia Day.

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Alongside an Aboriginal flag, the group unfurled on the bridge railings a 25-metre banner calling for an end to the celebration of Australia Day.

The group was not moved on by police, with the banner remaining in place for about 20 minutes. (UNI)