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Thousands rally at Town Hall for Invasion Day march on the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Thousands gathered at Town Hall earlier today to recognise January 26 as a day of survival and mourning for Indigenous people across Australia. Photo: Patrick McKenzie.

By PATRICK MCKENZIE

First Nations people should be aware that this article contains the names of people who have passed away.

Thousands gathered at Town Hall today to rally in recognition of January 26 as a day of survival and mourning for Indigenous people across Australia.

From 10:00 am, participants in the protest heard from a variety of First Nations speakers and allies about Australia’s colonial history, the lasting impact of the Stolen Generations and ongoing Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Today also marks 50 years since the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra on January 26, 1972.

The rally was MC’d by well-respected First Nations figure Lizzie Jarrett, who reminded attendees of Indigenous peoples’ historical presence on the land.

“Aboriginal people have put their footprints and their handprints on this country for a long time, over 60,000 years,” she said.

Kyah Patten, the granddaughter of Eddie Murray, an Australian rugby league player who died in custody in 1981, spoke about the struggle to achieve police accountability.

“There have been over 500 deaths in custody, and not one police officer has been charged. When will we see justice?” she said.

In December 2021, the Aboriginal legal service released figures showing that there had been 500 Indigenous deaths in custody since the release of the royal commission report on preventing deaths in the justice system in 1991.

“We can’t heal under a system that is built to oppress us,” Patten said.

Patten’s speech was met with cries of “shame” and “murder”. 

Yorta Yorta woman Amanda Morgan then spoke about the impact of intergenerational trauma, and the experiences that her brother, who is currently incarcerated, has endured. 

“It’s a similar experience for many, cut off from your family, your community, and ultimately your culture because of so many racist policies. We are not the problem,” she said.

Morgan decried the large police presence at the event as the crowd chanted “always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.”

“Look at [the police] surrounding us, the way they did when the ships came in,” Morgan said.

Thousands packed the city for the marches. Photo: Patrick McKenzie.

Paul Silva, the nephew of David Dungay Jr., spoke passionately against the government’s inaction against increasing deaths in custody.

“The Australian government has the power to hold these criminals to account for the actions that have caused murder, but they don’t because they don’t care … I stand here today on these steps still without any justice or accountability,” Silva said.

Silva further stated that his family was seeking to take his uncle’s case to the UN Human Rights Commission, where they would claim that Australia has breached its human rights obligations in the handling of Dungay Jr.’s death.

Palestinian solidarity

Amal Naser, a Palestinian activist, spoke of the solidarity and shared values between displaced Palestinians and Indigenous people.

“We have been denied our right to return, our lands have been subjugated to a colonial occupation.”

“Every day is Nakbar day like every day is survival day and a day of mourning for First Nations people … these days mark war, they mark genocide against Indigenous people,” Naser said.

Lizzie Jarrett then reminded attendees of the importance of sharing the message of Invasion Day.

Protestors marched towards the Yabun Festival at Victoria Park. Photo: Patrick McKenzie.

“I want you to go home and share, let Australia understand that we’ve had enough. Two hundred plus years of genocide against our people … sorry day did not stop the Stolen Generations,” she told the crowd.

March to the Australian Hall

At 11:20 am the protest marched to the Australian Hall on Elizabeth Street in silence and sat on the road.

Nathan Moran, the CEO of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council spoke about the historic Day of Mourning protest on January 26, 1938, and the ten-point statement on the rights of First Nations people.

Shortly after noon, protestors marched onwards to Central Station, then up Broadway to Victoria Park where the 20th annual Yabun Festival was taking place.

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