- by Hannah Middleton
- The Guardian
- Issue #2039
As many as 100,000 people took to the streets with rallies and marches in every state and territory on Invasion Day, 26th January.
Protestors held signs and wore t-shirts saying “always was, always will be Aboriginal land.” Others called for an end to deaths in custody.
The referendum on whether to enshrine the Voice in the Constitution was a major theme in the protests across the country with many speakers and banners opposing the push for constitutional recognition and calling for a no vote in the referendum.
Protests organised by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance demanded that Indigenous sovereignty not be granted by a vote from mostly non-Indigenous people.
Sydney’s protest, held on Gadigal land at Belmore Park, attracting over 10,000 who listened to speakers on land rights, deaths in custody, the stolen generations, and opposition to the Voice to parliament and then marched to the Yabun Festival in Victoria Park.
Gomeroi woman Gwenda Stanley, who helped organise the Sydney rally, said the theme was “sovereignty before Voice.”
She criticised the referendum as a waste of money that could have been better spent on grass roots Indigenous communities.
Melbourne’s packed Invasion Day rally was held on Naarm land at Parliament House. Banners and placards read “we deserve better than just a voice,” and “vote no to referendum.” Aboriginal elder Gary Foley criticised the proposal for the Voice, labelling it “lipstick on a pig”. He called for a treaty to be made a priority over the referendum.
Melbourne rally organiser Meriki Onus, the sister of Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, said the theme of “Treaty before Voice” had been adopted by a meeting of local activists. Aboriginal people demand more than “crumbs” from this country, she said, adding “We demand a treaty. We demand our land back. We demand an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.”
Lidia Thorpe told the thousands strong rally: “This is a war, a war that was declared on our people more than 200 years ago. “Do we want to become an advisory body to the colonial system? We deserve better … . We want real power and we won’t settle for anything less.”
Bundjalung woman Lizzie Jarrett told the crowd: “The system is not for black people.
“We don’t want a voice, we have a voice. We don’t want a whitewash,” she said. “When it comes to the time, vote no to the referendum.”
Melbourne comrades attended the Invasion Day rally in two capacities – as marshals volunteering with Workers Solidarity to ensure that the rally went smoothly, and keeping an eye out for attacks on the rally, looking after the health of the marchers, and as participants in the march and rally, marching under the banners of “Sovereignty Never Ceded” and “Don’t Celebrate Invasion.” This year’s Invasion Day in Melbourne reportedly had the largest turnout so far.
Thousands of people gathered at Queens Gardens and then walked to Musgrave Park, with roads being shut down throughout the Brisbane CBD.
Many people wore “treaty now” and Aboriginal flag shirts, and demanded a treaty and an end to black deaths in custody.
Gomeroi Kooma woman Ruby Wharton said “We’re hoping that a lot of the participants and people that come along to our Brisbane Invasion Day rally walk away with a deeper understanding that we don’t want a referendum into constitutional recognition.”
“We want our land back. We want an end to deaths in custody. We want an end to intergenerational trauma,” a rally organiser said.
“We have a voice, those bastards in Parliament haven’t been listening. What we want is justice, what we want is self-determination and sovereignty.”
Over 2,000 protesters gathered in Adelaide’s Victoria Square before marching behind a large banner reading: “Treaty before Voice.”
Marchers called for changing the date, an end to youth imprisonment, and no more deaths in custody.
Hundreds of people marched from Canberra’s city centre to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Old Parliament House in what was called a “Sovereignty Day” protest. Signs protesting against the proposed Voice to Parliament led the march.
Nioka Coe-Craigie, daughter of two founders of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy 51 years ago, said “Constitutional recognition will silence our voices in this country.”
Protestors chanted “Too many coppers, not enough justice. No justice, no peace. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.”