SYDNEY, Jan 26 (Reuters) – Thousands of Australians celebrated the country’s national day with a rally in support of Indigenous people on Thursday, with many describing the anniversary of the British fleet’s entry into Sydney Harbor as “Invasion Day”.
In Sydney, the capital of New South Wales – Australia’s most populous state – social media showed large crowds gathering at an “Invasion Day” rally in the central business district, with some holding Aboriginal flags and an Aboriginal smoking ceremony .
Similar protests took place in other Australian state capitals, including Adelaide in South Australia, where about 2,000 people took part, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to the Aboriginal people who have inhabited the land for at least 65,000 years during a flag raising and citizenship ceremony in the Australian capital, Canberra.
“Let us all recognize that we have the unique privilege of sharing this continent with the world’s oldest continuous culture,” Albanese said.
He said while it was a “difficult day” for Indigenous Australians, there were no plans to change the dates of the holiday.
Almost two-thirds of Australians believe January 26 should be seen as “Australia Day”, according to the annual poll released this week by market research firm Roy Morgan, largely unchanged from a year ago. The rest thought it should be “Invasion Day”.
Amid the debate, some companies have adopted flexibility in how they celebrate the holiday. Australia’s largest telecommunications company, Telstra Corp Ltd (TLS.AX), has given its employees the option to come to work on Jan. 1 this year. 26. Rest another day.
Telstra chief executive Vicki Brady wrote on LinkedIn: “For many Aboriginal people, Australia Day … marks a turning point, witnessing the loss of life, the devaluation of culture and the breakdown of connections between people and places. “
Australia’s 25 million people are home to some 880,000 Indigenous peoples, many of whom are lagging behind on economic and social indicators in what the government calls “entrenched inequalities”.
This year’s holiday coincides with Albania’s centre-left Labor government planning a referendum to recognize indigenous peoples in the constitution and to demand that they be consulted on decisions affecting their lives.
The government plans to introduce legislation in March to set up a referendum to be held later this year, as Aboriginal voices have emerged as a key federal political issue.
The Constitution, which came into force in January 1901, cannot be amended without a referendum and does not concern the country’s indigenous peoples.
Abi George, one of those who took part in the Sydney protest, said it was not a happy day for all Australians, especially Indigenous people.
“No one has the right to celebrate genocide,” she said.
Another protester, Vivian Macjohn, said the opposition to the Fourth of July rally was in support of Aboriginal people.
“I think it’s important that we show up and mourn with them and stand in solidarity,” she said.
Reporting by Sam McKeith and Cordelia Hsu; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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