If other years are anything to go by, thousands of Australians are expected to hit the streets on January 26 to protest Australia Day. The public holiday marks the anniversary of the date Captain Arthur Phillip “‘founded’ the penal colony of New South Wales on already occupied Aboriginal land by raising a Union Jack flag at Sydney Cove in 1788,” writes Yorta Yorta woman Taneshia Atkinson.
The concept of Australia Day as a national public holiday held on January 26 is a relatively new one. It wasn’t until 1935 that all states and territories began calling January 26 “Australia Day” (prior to that it was held on July 30), it wasn’t celebrated nationally as a public holiday until 1994. (Read more here and here.)
For some, January 26 is a day to commemorate the country’s history, for others – particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people – it’s a day to mourn the occupation of the land and the violence that occurred in the name of colonisation.
Some groups refer to the date as “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day”, and in 2021, this longstanding protest is once again at the forefront of rallies across the country.
In Adelaide, a Survival Day march will proceed from Victoria Square to Parliament House and back. Tandanya National Aboriginal Culture Institute is also hosting a non-political Survival Day event that will celebrate the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It includes a live concert; traditional and contemporary dance performances; and access to galleries. The event has sold out, but limited tickets will be available at the door.
In Brisbane, an Invasion Day rally will start at Queens Gardens, with the contingent marching to Musgrave Park.
In Melbourne, the traditional Australia Day parade has been cancelled by the Victorian Government due to health and safety concerns. Instead, Victorian Naidoc is hosting an Invasion Day dawn service in King’s Park, supported by the City of Melbourne. The event will be ticketed, with seats available for 250 people and a Covid-safe plan in place.
Protesters are still planning to gather at an Invasion Day rally outside Parliament House. Almost 2000 people have indicated they are going on Facebook.
A rally calling to change the date will take place at Forrest Place in the CBD at 1pm.
Sydney Festival is also holding The Vigil, an annual event at Barangaroo Reserve dedicated to reflection. It commences at dusk on January 25 and concludes at dawn the following day. In 2019, Sydney Festival director Wesley Enoch said the event wasn’t a protest or a political statement, but rather an opportunity for people to reflect – together, around a campfire – on what life was like before January 26, 1788, when life changed irrevocably for Australia’s original inhabitants and their descendants.