Thousands at Invasion Day rally in Sydney

Farid FaridAAP
Thousands have turned out in Sydney to commemorate Invasion Day.
Camera IconThousands have turned out in Sydney to commemorate Invasion Day. Credit: AAP

Thousands have gathered in central Sydney waving flags and carrying placards calling for justice for Aboriginal deaths in custody as part of nationwide Invasion Day protests.

Led by Aboriginal activists, the mostly masked crowd boisterously shouted "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land" as they marched from Town Hall to Victoria Park.

"We feel proud today yet sad in knowing why we have to stand here. Why do we have to promote our invasion to make sure Australia sees us?" said master of ceremonies Elizabeth Jarrett, a Dunghutti-Bundjalug activist.

She listed a litany of ongoing grievances held by Australia's indigenous population - representing nearly 3.5 per cent of the country's population - including most prominently deaths in custody.

In the 30 years since the Royal Commission there have been about 500 Indigenous deaths in custody, with the majority of them in jails.

"We want to make sure our murders stop, the raping of our women, the stealing of our children... and the desecration of our culture," Ms Jarrett added.

But for Gamilaraay woman Helen Russell, she does not see much hope in serious political reforms to remedy "the pain" of Aboriginal Australians.

Wearing a red shirt emblazoned with pictures of her two dead sons, she squarely blamed Australia's police and prisons for targeting Aboriginal men.

"My two sons were killed by the system," she told AAP.

Last year one of her sons Stanley Russell, 45, was shot dead by police at his Seven Hills home in western Sydney, while her other son Edward Russell died in Long Bay Prison in 1999 aged 25.

"I just cry and cry and keep on crying because we have never gotten justice. I don't think we ever will," Ms Russell said.

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