Sydney’s Australia Day celebrations have been marred by violent clashes between police and protestors at an Invasion Day march through the inner city.
Marking the growing debate around the date of Australia Day, thousands of people marched through the heart of Sydney’s Aboriginal community, Redfern, and then to the city and up to Victoria Park where the Yabun festival is being held.
The Sydney Invasion Day rally just turned violent. pic.twitter.com/F66rQIJ292
— Allan Clarke (@AllanJClarke) January 26, 2017
A protestor threw a smoking item into the crowd letting off thick white smoke and causing police to intervene.
A violent scuffle ensued as many people trying to move away from those involved.
The violence lasted only a few minutes and was contained to a few people.
The march resumed with protestors chanting in opposition to police power and continuing on to Victoria Park safely.
Glora Lyons, who attended the Redfern Invasion Day protest, said Australia Day represented a war.
It signifies the colonisation and the genocide, what happened when Captain Cook landed out there in Botany Bay.
Protestor Glora Lyons
“The day signifies for me our survival, survival of my people.”
Change day to March 1: former LNP Cabinet minister
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Treasurer Scott Morrison have dismissed calls to change the date of Australia Day, despite comments by the prime minister’s Indigenous advisor and a former cabinet minister.
Ian Macfarlane, a former resources minister who resigned from Parliament last year, wants the date changed and admits he has only had the change of heart in the last few months.
I started to think about my forebears, and the way I’d feel if in England (if) I had to celebrate United Kingdom Day on the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden when my mother’s forebears were cut in half by English grapeshot and then hunted down and murdered along with their wives or children.
“Or on the day when the Vikings invaded Arrochar where my father’s family is from, and I thought yeah, look, this really isn’t something that we can continue with.”
Head of the prime minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, believes January 26 has a devastating and emotional impact for many Australians.
“Most Aboriginal Indigenous people want to celebrate Australia Day and they feel they are Australians, that they are part of the Australian community,” he said.
Mr Mundine said the date marked Indigenous people losing their land, massacres, people being driven onto reserves, and the slow destruction of languages and culture.
“It was just like the end of the world for a lot of communities,” he said.
‘Political correctness gone mad’
But the Deputy Prime Minister said changing the date was an example of “political correctness gone mad” and said those who were unhappy with the date should “go to work”.
I just get sick of these people who every time, every time there’s something on, they just want to make you feel guilty.
Barnaby Joyce on 2GB radio
“They don’t like Christmas, they don’t like Australia Day, they’re just miserable, gutted people and I wish they would crawl under a rock and hide for a little bit.”
Mr Morrison said he did not support moving the date and said Australia Day was a time to reflect on achievements and further reconciliation.
“I think all Australians can embrace all of our stories and I think that’s one of the most wonderful things about the country,” he said.
“But that doesn’t mean we need to deny any parts of our heritage and parts of our history, whether it’s our colonial history, our settlement history, our deep and long Indigenous history, our post-war migration history and refugees coming to Australia.”
Labor’s Chris Bowen supports keeping Australia Day on January 26 saying “it is a good day for many in the community”.
“While I respect the views that are presented right across the board, it’s a debate which I think comes up from time to time,” he said.
“It is a good day for many to celebrate the achievements of our nation and I think it should remain so.”
Triple j and Fremantle sparked change of heart
Mr Macfarlane said his change of mind was prompted by triple j considering changing the date for the Hottest 100 and the Fremantle Council’s decision to boycott Australia Day.
“In the end, the Government will have to act on the date, whether that’s the current Government or the next Government, because this issue isn’t going to go away,” he said.
It’s going to continue to divide Australians at a time when we need to be united.”
Mr Macfarlane, who is now the chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, said Australia Day could be moved to March 1, as it was the day the Commonwealth started functioning as one nation under one Government.
“It can’t be the day of Federation (1 January) because people will be hungover from New Year’s Day, quite frankly,” he said.
“It does need to be in the warmer months so we can continue the Australian tradition of celebrating in the great outdoors, so I’ve gone for 1 March — and let the debate begin.”
Mr Macfarlane spoke at the Australian Unity Great Australia Day Breakfast.
“Today is the first time in a quarter of a century of public life that I’m going to deliver what I term a bleeding-heart speech,” he said ahead of the event.
“I ran a pretty big business portfolio, I’m a pretty matter-of-fact guy and I say it like it is and I don’t do bleeding heart speeches.”