Around 10,000 people gathered on Gadigal Land, at Belmore Park, to protest the ongoing celebration of ‘Australia Day’ on January 26th.
This year’s Invasion Day protest took place amid an ongoing debate on whether to support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The Voice is a constitutionally enshrined advisory body for First Nations People to advise the government on Indigenous issues.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has committed to conducting a referendum for the advisory body and has expressed strong support for it.
Critics of the Voice fear that it is a mere integration with the colonial state and instead support a Treaty to guarantee sovereignty for First Nations people.
Speakers opposed the Voice, echoing comments made by the Federal Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe at the protest in Melbourne.
At the rally, Wiradjuri and Badu Island Greens candidate Lynda-June Coe emphasised First Nations sovereignty and rejected the Australian Constitution.
“The reckoning is that the First Nations Constitution is the oldest constitution on the planet. That is the recognition that needs to happen,” she said.
“My people, this is the voice. This is the voice. They don’t want to hear it because we live in our truth.”
Aunty Lizzie Jarrett, a Dunghutti, Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung woman, led the protest urging supporters to listen to “our voices, not some stupid fucking Albanese voice.”
A banner hung up the whole rally read, “VOTE NO TO REFERENDUM, WE DESERVE MORE THAN A VOICE.”
Jinaya Walford, a Gomeroi and Bundjalung woman, criticised traditional institutions and emphasised the need for grassroots movements and chanted, “The Land is us.”
Aunty Shirley Lomas, a Gomeroi woman and survivor of the Stolen Generations, moved the crowd speaking about her disabled son and the struggles facing First Nations people with a disability.
When the rally was met with a counter-protest, rally attendees responded with the chant, “Who owns this land? We do.”
Leetona Dungay, a Dunghutti woman, spoke on the death of her son David Dungay Junior and how in “the last thirty years nearly 700 Indigenous people have died in custody…and no one has been held accountable.”
Dunghutti activist and nephew of David Dungay Junior, Paul Silva, described the pain of seeing his uncle’s dead body, brutalised by the police. “We don’t and will not celebrate land theft, murder and rape,” he said and demanded “justice and accountability” for deaths in custody and all injustice caused by colonialism.
Kyah Patten, a Gomeroi and Wiradjuri activist, spoke on the death of her uncle, Eddie Murray, who died in custody in 1981.
Throughout the rally, speakers condemned the Australian government’s disregard for Native Title. 17-year-old Wiradjuri activist Ethan Lyon condemned the Labor Government’s support for Santos’ coal seam gas project in the Pilliga.
Gomeroi and Wiradjuri woman Kyana Hickey Coe emphasised that Gomeroi people have been saying “no to Santos for the past ten years.” Ian Brown, a Gomeroi activist, read out a statement by Suellyn Tighe from Coonabarabran against the “extinguishment of the Gomeroi native title in the Pilliga.”
Iesha and Constance Brown from Yuin Country condemned the Shoalhaven City Council’s agreement to build a Shaolin Temple on an Indigenous birthing site.
After a performance from Indigenous hip-hop artists Barkaa and Dobby, the rally marched to Victoria Park to celebrate the Yabun Festival – an annual cultural event which celebrates the survival of First Nations’ cultures.