please find below photographs from today's Invasion Day protest. i have included a fantastic report by Red Flag editor, Steph Price, who gives a vivid and moving account of the rally and march which "gatecrashed" the official Melbourne Australia Day parade. Also included is a report from The Age on the protest.
You can read my earlier blog from today: January 26 - White Australia has a Black History by clicking here.
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“My heart’s flowing with pride”, says Viv Malo, a Goonyandi woman pacing purposefully, microphone in hand, in front of the rally. “I feel like we’re winning.” Speaking later, she estimates the crowd to be ten times bigger than the turn-out has been for the last few years.
“It’s deadly”, say Steve Thorpe, a Gunnai Gunditjmara man. “I think there is a revival of resistance.” Today is a celebration of that resistance.
Elder and long term activist Diana Murray (Wirramul) of the Dja Dja Wurrung, Wamba Wamba and Dhuhhuroa people addresses the crowd with a message for the government: “In Australia, the Aboriginal traditional owners of this country have always been here. We always will be. It has not been wiped away.”
“Mr PM, you’re guilty of trying to wipe us away … Mr PM, you can go to hell”, she says.
As the speeches continue the crowd builds. When the rally starts down Bourke Street it numbers closer to 1,000. Chants of “No pride in genocide!” are led by organisers.
The police rush to get to the front. Within a few blocks it becomes clear why. As the march nears the centre of the city, the police form into a line. A hundred metres behind them is Swanston Street and Melbourne’s official Australia Day parade.
The cops are no match for the crowd that by now knows it: this year is different. Line by line the biggest Invasion Day march in Melbourne’s history streams past the police and onto Swanston Street. The road is flanked by onlookers, four rows deep. Their small, paper Australian flags are held still while they watch a new contingent join the parade.
Among the protesters, the mood is a perfect mix of jubilation and anger. A chant of “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” goes up. Wurundjeri woman Mary Edwards, 29, is here with her daughter Regina, 5. She’s chanting so loud her voice cracks. Taking a quick break to get her breath back she explains why she’s here: “This is a protest for Invasion Day as we call it.”
“It’s a peaceful protest. We’re doing it for our ancestors who were raped and murdered back in the days when we were colonised. It’s just a reminder that we’re surviving.” Asked if she expected to be marching down Swanston Street today Mary smiles and says she never expected to come this far.
Answering the same question, Wurundjeri man Jesse Rotunah, 20, says, “Yeah, I expect it to happen every year. I’ll do this every year now until I get old.”
Officials are running around in a panic. “Why don’t you all just get a life?” screams one. Through the speakers rigged up on every corner a voice chastises the parade’s newest entrants. “Today is supposed to be a positive day – this is a happy day.” Eventually it gives up and directs onlookers to leave the area and join “the true Australia Day” further down the road.
But the march continues there. The rally makes it to the Yarra River which marks the end of the city centre. On the banks of the river with the crowd circled around, Viv again takes the microphone.
“This is our land. To anybody whose parade we rained on, don’t take offence. I’m not mad at the people, I’m mad at the government and the entire system. I want the genocide to stop!”
Just a few minutes earlier, as the march neared its end, I asked if she still felt like they were winning. She laughed. “We were the dark horse, 500 to one. We’ve just won it by ten lengths.”
Aboriginal rights protest disrupts Australia Day Parade in Melbourne
- Hundreds of Invasion Day protestors march at the back of the Australian Day Parade in Melbourne's CBD. Photo: Jason South
The group – holding Aboriginal flags and chanting "always was, always will be Aboriginal land" – followed the parade down Swanston Street, flanked by police.
The rally came after more than 100 special interest, sporting and cultural groups had marched from the Melbourne Town Hall to Kings Domain as part of the Australia Day Parade.
Thousands of spectators watched the parade, which began with a flag raising ceremony at town hall attended by Victorian Governor Alex Chernov, Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.
The rally that followed was lead by two organisations: Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance and First Nations Liberation.
Organiser Meriki Onus, 27, said the group had earlier gathered at the steps of parliament house to lay flowers in commemoration of Aboriginal people who were killed during white settlement, the Stolen Generation and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
She said January 26 was a day of mourning for Aboriginal people.
"We don't celebrate Australia Day, because Australia Day celebrates genocide," Ms Onus said.
"Today is Invasion Day for Aboriginal people."
As the vocal group marched from Parliament to town hall and on to Birrarung Marr, people chanted "No pride in genocide" and "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land."
Placards carried in the procession included "End the NT intervention" and "Stop deaths in custody".
The rally came to a brief halt at the intersection of St Kilda Road and Flinders Street as members of the crowd burned gum leaves.
Ms Onus said the turnout for the rally was far greater than she had expected.
Djuran Bunjileenee, from First Nations Liberation, said it was important for the wider community to remember the events of January 26.
"Australia Day is the day our land was physically occupied by invaders," Mr Bunjileenee said.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said police were aware of an Invasion Day protest.
No arrests were made.
IN PHOTOS: INVASION DAY 2015 (MELBOURNE)
All photos by Benjamin Solah; Liz Walsh; Emerson Tung and Vashti Kenway.