Crowds have gathered across the nation’s major cities for Invasion Day rallies to coincide with Australia Day, protesting the national holiday and what it means for indigenous people.

In Melbourne, an estimated crowd of 600 gathered at King’s Domain for a dawn service to commemorate the victims of frontier wars and massacres across Victoria.

Later in the day, a crowd of thousands gathered in the city before marching down Bourke Street, chanting “no pride in genocide” and “always was, always will be Aboriginal land.”

A number carried signs bearing the names of indigenous people who died in custody or were killed in police pursuits, with many protesters calling for Australia Day to be abolished.

Former Northcote MP and Gunnai-Kurnai and Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe gave a speech, saying:

“This country stops for a horse race, it stops for an AFL grand final, it stops for the Queen’s birthday and it stops for an ANZAC service and we don’t have ever a time where this country stands still to reflect on first peoples of this country and the pain and suffering we’ve endured since colonisation.”

In Sydney, the morning began with a smoking ceremony in Hyde Park before thousands gathered to march though the city, in protest of what organisers called “the attempted subjugation of over 500 different nations.”

Invasion Day

Greens MP David Shoebridge was one of many who delivered addresses in Sydney, telling the crowd:

“We acknowledge that today is not the day to celebrate the many achievements in Australia but reflect on the reality of invasion and what the First Nations people continue to suffer today. We don’t [just] need to change the date, we need to change the systemic problems, we need to change the country. Reverse the forced adoptions laws.” 

Social media posts from around the country show protesters gathering in other capital cities, and marching through the streets in major centres including Brisbane and Hobart.

Protests reached as far away as London, where a sign reading ‘Abolish Australia Day’ was seen hanging from the Westminster Bridge overnight.

An estimated 30 protesters hung the sign from the bridge, saying that they were doing so in solidarity with indigenous Australians.

Image: Getty Images / Darrian Traynor / Don Arnold