Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra Invasion Day protests 2023

Dramatic scenes have erupted at Invasion Day rallies across the country, with Greens senator Lidia Thorpe declaring “they are stealing our babies”.

Thousands of Australians are rallying in solidarity with First Nations people, marching under the scorching sun in a bid to get the government to change the date.

Protesters have taken to the streets with marches organised in every state and territory on Thursday as many are choosing not to mark the national holiday and are protesting January 26 as Australia’s national day of celebration.

MELBOURNE

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe took to the stage around midday as the heaving crowds of Melbourne’s CBD cheered her on under the scorching heat.

Ms Thorpe, who is an Indigenous woman and the star of Melbourne’s treaty movement, declared “this is a war” to rapturous cheers.

“A war that was declared on our people more than 200 years ago,” Senator Thorpe said in an extraordinary speech, in which she said black women were still being raped by “them”.

Loud shouts of “shame” met Ms Thorpe’s consecutive declarations, given with red-painted hands symbolising violence and in which she held a “war stick”.

“That war has never ended in our country against our people. They are still killing us. They are still stealing our babies. They are killing our men. They are still raping our women.

“What do we have to celebrate in this country? Do we want to become an advisory body to the colonial system?

“We deserve better. We have to be rid of racism and heal this country and bring everyone together through a sovereign treaty.

We deserve better than an advisory body. They could put 10 independent black states in the senate today. We want real power and we won’t settle for anything less.”

Speaking to NCA NewsWire after her speech, Senator Thorpe denied it was confirmation she would spearhead a Voice no-vote.

“I won’t be part of any campaign,” she said.

Senator Thorpe said the extent of the turnout and the reception to the numerous Aboriginal speakers confirmed the urgency of a treaty.

To loud chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Killing Us”, the rally paused at the busy intersection of Swanston and Collins St, paralysing the centre of Melbourne’s CBD.

Ms Thorpe and others laid themselves on the tram tracks of the intersection.

The large crowd assembled outside Victoria’s State Parliament on Bourke St in the city’s CBD for the annual Invasion Day celebration.

The crowd, in its thousands, burst into cheers just after 11AM, when a speaker declared “f**k Australia Day”.

Uncle Gary Foley, the rally’s first speaker, criticised the proposal for The Voice, labelling it “lipstick on a pig”.

He called for a treaty between First Nations people and the wider community to be made a priority over the referendum.

“This referendum got a snowball chance in hell of getting up,” he said.

Loud cheers broke out in the crowd when Uncle Robbie Thorpe called for a sovereign people’s assembly, as opposed to a Voice.

“There’s been lots of money into our welfare and our health but there’s nothing to show for it,” Uncle Thorpe said.

He argued for people to go “one step closer” and revolt, saying 2023 would be a year of reckoning.

“Are you ready for freedom Australia? Can you handle it? Are you ready for the truth?” he asked the crowd.

Uncle Thorpe called the notion of a voice “disgusting and offensive,” and said it was a form of “double-dating the constitution”.

The crowd is replete with popular Invasion Day slogans, particularly “No Pride in Genocide” and “Sovereignty Never Ceded”.

Signs were laid out on the floor with one saying “Queers for liberation” and another saying “Abolish: police, prisons, Australia”.

“This is an opportunity to rise up and get rid of the criminals in here,” Uncle Thorpe said, pointing behind him to Parliament House.

“Get rid of the State, the Crown and The Commonwealth,” he said, to a loud applause.

SYDNEY

Crowds gathered early in the morning on Gadigal land at Belmore Park in Sydney’s CBD ahead of the march at 9.30am.

It wasn’t long before a fight broke out in the crowd, with a small group of people holding up an Australian flag and signs which read: “Always was always will be Australian land”.

During the rally they were asked by Gomeroi woman and Indigenous activist Gwenda Stanley to leave the area.

“Australia Day is dead and done. Get over it,” she shouted from across the park.

Speaking to NCA NewsWire, Ms Stanley called them “infiltrators and agitators.”

“Our conflict is 235 years of genocide in this country and he thinks he’s got a right to stand there and he thinks he has some sort of power in our day,” she said.

“Australia Day is dead and gone. Get over it. This is our day now. It’s gone. It’s done and dusted.”

Police also intervened and asked the group to disperse and said they would be issued with a direction, if they didn’t obey the request.

Protester Kim Jacobs, who was holding up an Australian flag, justified his dissent as democratic.

“I guess I’m one of those awkward people who have a point of view and felt shame to express it,” he told a police officer.

“I have no wish to cause problems with the police and do not wish to cause violence.”

As he left, a bystander was heard saying: “You’re everything that’s wrong with this country”.

The theme of Thursday’s rally is “sovereignty before voice” in response to the Federal Government’s Voice to Parliament proposal.

The rally opened with a smoking ceremony, followed by traditional dances and an acknowledgement of country made by Uncle Dave Bell.

A heavy police presence was also seen on park grounds.

Speakers made calls for Indigenous sovereignty and criticised the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Activist and Dunghutti, Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung woman, Auntie Lizzie Jarrett told attendees to vote no.

“Liberal, Labor, the system is not for Black People,” she said as the crowd cheered in response.

“We don’t want a voice, we have a voice. We don’t want a white wash.

“When it comes to the time. Vote ‘no’ to the referendum.

“Don’t come here and tick a box.”

Ms Jarrett addressed the NSW Police officers gathered at the rally, saying they didn’t need their protection at the event.

She also made comments about the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

“We protect each other. This is sovereignty day, Australia Day is dead,” Ms Jarrett said.

“Just like queen Lizzie, Australia Day is dead with her. Will you support us? If you do, when that referendum comes around, kick it to the ground like Australia.”

Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi is present at the march and posted images of the smoking ceremony to Twitter.

“Today I am joining First Nations people to mark 26 January as Invasion Day, as I have for many years. It is a Day of Mourning,” Ms Faruqi wrote.

“We are calling for First Nations justice and we are calling for Treaty in this country.”

Hundreds of people braced temperatures of 27C wearing clothes bearing the Aboriginal flag. Signs read “we deserve better than just a voice” and “vote no to referendum”.

Mr Jarrett shouted to the crowd: “Stop killing black people, stop stealing black children, stop killing black land, stop poisoning black waters.”

Throughout the two-hour rally, multiple calls have been made against The Voice, in lieu for meaningful sovereignty and protection of Indigenous land.

Another speaker said The Voice echoed paternalistic policies of the 1900s.

“We say no to genocide. We say no to cultural genocide,” said another speaker.

“We don’t want to be assimilated no constitution as written by white people.”

Speakers also spoke out against plans by mining company Santos to build the Narrabri gas project in north-west NSW. Traditional Gomeroi owners have appealed the decision in the Federal Court.

BRISBANE

Thousands of people gathered at Queens Gardens for the Invasion Day event on Thursday.

The massive crowd, expected to be more than 10,000 supporters, walked from the gardens to Musgrave Park, with roads being shut down throughout the Brisbane CBD.

Multiple people wore shirts with the words “treaty now” written on them and chanted “end black deaths in custody”.

Meanwhile, others had clothes which bore the Aboriginal flag.

A massive Aboriginal flag was laid on the ground in the park while a woman held a sign which said: “always was, always will be”.

Signs in the crowd read “the Queen is dead, so is the colony” and “land rights country not politics”.

Rally organisers asked the crowd if they supported a voice to Parliament, but was met with silence.

“Is there anyone here who thinks we need a Voice? No one?” he asked.

“We want our land back. We want an end to deaths in custody. We want an end to intergenerational trauma.

“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.

“If they think some government-appointed advisory council is going to say it better than that, they have no idea.”

Like other states, they are urging people to fight against the referendum and vote no.

ACT

Hundreds of people descended on the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra after marching from the city centre of the nation’s capital in a January 26 “Sovereignty Day” protest.

Members of the crowd clapped and cheered as they arrived on the lawn outside Old Parliament House, 51 years to the day since the tent embassy was set up in Canberra as a permanent protest occupation site.

Protestors chanted together as they walked the 3km from Civic: “Too many coppers, not enough justice; No justice, no peace, no racist police; Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”.

Signs protesting against the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament were visible at the front of the crowd before it dispersed at the embassy. A small group of people stood on the lawn behind a large placard reading: “F**k your Voice, it is not ours”.

The upcoming referendum on whether or not to enshrine the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory body in the constitution has emerged as a flashpoint in this year’s Invasion Day protests across the nation.

Nioka Coe-Craigie, the daughter of the founders of the Aboriginal tent embassy, spoke to protestors as they gathered in Civic before the march on Thursday morning and declared she wouldn’t support the Voice.

“Constitutional recognition will silence our voices in this country,” she said.

Ms Coe-Craigie was critical of the federal government, saying politicians hadn’t gone to the tent embassy “and sat at the campfire to discuss terms.”

Thursday marks 51 years since the embassy was set up in Canberra as a permanent protest occupation site to represent the political rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.

CAIRNS

A march kicked off at Fogarty Park in Cairns at 9.00am, with protesters walking through the city with a sign which read “Abolish Australia day”.

The crowd could be heard chanting: “What do we want? Treaty. When do we want it? Now”.

“No pride in celebrating genocide”, another sign in the crowd read.

HOBART

Crowds gathered at Elizabeth Street in Hobart’s CBD from 10.50am where they marched towards Parliament Lawns for an Invasion Day rally at midday.

Hundreds of people can be seen walking through the city’s streets, holding Aboriginal flags.

“Australia Day = Invasion day,” one sign in the crowd said.

“Invasion, murder, rape, dispossession, deaths in custody, attempted genocide. Celebrate…you’re joking,” another said.

Non-Indigenous Australians have been celebrating what is known as “Australia Day” for 29 years.

The day is a historic one which holds deep, cultural significance to Indigenous Australians and is a chance to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.

Leave a Comment