News Indigenous Australia Day begins with WugulOra ceremony, sunrise viewings
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Australia Day begins with WugulOra ceremony, sunrise viewings

People gather at Bondi to watch the sunrise looking out over the Tasman Sea. Photo: ABC News/Brendan Esposito
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People have gathered early to watch the sunrise on Australia Day, as the nation prepares for a more subdued day due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Sydney, the sun rose on an Opera House lit up with an artwork by NSW Indigenous artist and Yaegl woman Frances Belle-Parker.

The WugulOra ceremony, meaning One Mob, marked the beginning of events at the city’s Barangaroo Reserve.

The sails of the Sydney Opera House are lit up at dawn with an artwork by NSW Indigenous artist Frances Belle-Parker. Photo: AAP/Dean Lewis

In a welcome to country, Yvonne Weldon, chairperson of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, called for Australia to own its past.

“My people are the oldest living culture of the world,” she said.

“Our stores aren’t myths, they are this land’s history.

“So let us all acknowledge and remember the many sacrifices of my people, the sacrifices then and the sacrifices now.”

Ms Weldon also called for unity “regardless of what date or day you call it”.

“We need to heal and we can only do this together,” she said.

While some Australians are set to celebrate the day, others see the date as a day of mourning.

A raft of events of both celebration and protest are planned around the country.

Early on Tuesday, a Survival Day dawn service was held in the Victorian regional city of Ballarat honouring First Nations people who died in massacres and frontier wars.

Deb Clark from the Koori Action Engagement Group said the service was live streamed due to the pandemic, and she hoped it allowed more communities across the country to be educated about the significance of the day.

“Anything that represents a day that began many of the things that changed the lives of people who came before us is not something to be celebrated,” she said.

“Yet we don’t want to focus on the negatives, we simply want to have a conversation that allows the history to be told.”

A day to be ‘thankful for being Australian’: Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says January 26 is about being thankful for being an Australian.

Mr Morrison has told Nine Radio Australians should focus on the positives.

“Of course, there are many controversial issues that go around things around this day.

“But today, it’s a day just to come together, be thankful for being Australian.

“That’s what is it. We all are [Australian], regardless of what are stories are, our experiences, our differences or disagreements that might happen.”

A smoking ceremony was held at Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney on Monday night. Photo: AAP/Paul Braven

More than 7000 people have registered their interest in attending protests in Sydney, which are currently limited to 500 people under coronavirus restrictions.

Rally organisers submitted a request to Health Minister Brad Hazzard for an exemption to the cap.

A decision had not been made when the Aboriginal Legal Services, representing the organisers, applied to the NSW Supreme Court.

Shortly before the hearing, Health Minister Brad Hazzard refused the exemption.

Organisers of the Melbourne rally, scheduled for 10.30am (AEDT), have urged attendees to pre-register, but Premier Daniel Andrews has urged Victorians not to attend the event.

Australia Day in Melbourne is usually marked with a parade through the city, but Mr Andrews also cancelled the event to prevent potential coronavirus transmission.