Invasion Day protesters rally in CBD, call for Australia Day date change
The streets of Perth’s CBD were a sea of red, black and yellow during Wednesday’s Invasion Day rally, as the chorus of calls to “change the date” rang out across the nation.
While the threat of Omicron led to rallies being cancelled in some other States and Territories, thousands of masked protesters packed out Forrest Place on Wednesday afternoon.
Thousands of people donned Aboriginal colours and carried placards featuring phrases such as: “Always was, always will be” and “Change the date, don’t celebrate”.
The event began at noon with a smoking ceremony, speeches and performances from prominent community elders and activists. “We need a treaty, fellas, and we need a treaty now,” Nigel Wilkes told the crowd. “We’ve got a big day ahead of us and the message is — respect us. We’re the oldest living nation on earth.”
Mr Wilkes also encouraged attendees to “look out for our elders”. “We have to make sure they have water, we have to make sure they have a mask,” he said.
In light of the recent Omicron outbreak in WA, organisers implemented various public health measures, such as SafeWA app check-in QR codes placed on bollards.
Organiser Marianne Headland MacKay was among the event’s speakers, along with her 10-year-old daughter.
“Why are our children taken away, why are our men and women filling the jails?” she asked the crowd. “We need to make changes and the Government needs to let us tell them what changes need to be made to help our people.”
Many of the speakers addressed systemic racism that they believed was being ignored or enabled by the Government.
These included the disproportionate numbers of incarcerated Indigenous people and children being taken away from their families and put into care at a high rate.
Kiya Watt, a Menang Noongar artist, travelled up from Albany to speak at the event. “I stand here today in solidarity with Whadjuk mob calling for abolishment of racist systems in Australia,” she said.
Jabirr Jabirr woman Marani Greatorex from Broome came to the rally with her friends.
“We come to the protest every year to support changing the date and bring awareness to non-Aboriginal people,” she said.
Maddison Panting and her 17-month-old son — whose father comes from the Gidja Country — were among the protesters.
She said she was rallying for a safer and brighter future for her child.
The crowd marched through the city chanting “no pride in genocide” before finishing up in the Supreme Court Gardens.
While the Melbourne, Hobart and Darwin Invasion Day in-person protests were cancelled, organisers held live streams and online events.
Rallies did go ahead in Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane, but thousands converged on the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra to mark its 50th anniversary.
Earlier as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other dignitaries gathered for an Australia Day citizenship and flag-raising ceremony, Indigenous people dressed in traditional garb conducted a ceremony before a minute’s silence was held ahead of the march for “the warriors before us”.
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