Protesters are seen during an Invasion Day rally in Melbourne.

Protesters are seen during an Invasion Day rally in Melbourne. Source: AAP.

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26 January

Protest and celebration as Australia Day marks the moment 'this land changed forever'

Follow along with the SBS News live blog as people from across the country come together to protest, mourn and celebrate on Australia day.

Protesters are seen during an Invasion Day rally in Melbourne. Source: AAP.

Published , updated 26 January 2021, 5:18 pm
26 January 2021, 5:17 pm

Signing off after a day of protest and celebration

That's all from us today, folks. Thanks for joining us as we brought you moments of protest, mourning and celebration this Australia Day. 

Here's a recap of what happened across the country: 

  • Thousands of people marched in Invasion Day rallies and marches protesting Australia Day and calling for justice for First Nations people, despite warnings over COVID-19 gathering limits. 
  • Five people were arrested in Sydney out of a crowd of about 3,000, according to police estimates. There are reports rally organisers registered up to 8,000 QR code check-ins at the protest.
  • At a rally in Melbourne, about 5,000 people separated into groups of 100 to abide by COVID-19 restrictions, with Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe telling the crowd that Indigenous people "need a treaty". 
  • Scores of people also attended rallies in Brisbane, Hobart, the Northern Territory and Perth, with a huge crowd marching from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy to Parliament House in Canberra. 
  • Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered his keynote address at a flag-raising and citizenship ceremony in Canberra, marking the day more than 12,000 people became Australian citizens across the country.
  • Opposition leader Anthony Albanese shared his thoughts on the debate around the date of Australia Day, proposing a referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians should be held on 26 January to bridge the “divisive debate”.  
  • Veteran journalist Kerry O'Brien explained why he chose to reject his Australia Day honour in an interview on NITV's Sunrise Ceremony broadcast. 
  • New Australian of the Year Grace Tame voiced her support for moving Australia Day, but said Indigenous voices must be listened to. 

With additional coverage from AAP

26 January 2021, 4:47 pm

Reports of 8,000-crowd at Sydney Invasion Day rally

Earlier today, we reported NSW Police estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 people attended Sydney's Invasion Day rally. 

There are now reports rally organisers have said they registered more than 8,000 QR code check-ins at today's protest. 

26 January 2021, 4:31 pm

Invasion Day rally underway in Perth

An Invasion Day rally has kicked off in Perth, with reports of a huge turnout. 

NITV reporter Sarah Collard is there, and has spoken with Roslyn Bynder, who is with her partner and 18-month-old son. 

"The date should change as a respect for us," Ms Bynder said. 

"Everything changed that day." 

26 January 2021, 4:21 pm

Anthony Albanese calls for referendum to soothe 'divisive debate'

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says a referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians should be held on 26 January to bridge the “divisive debate” around Australia Day.

“We need to work out ways in which we avoid the divisive debate that has occurred every year around this time, about the choice of date to have our national day,” he told reporters today, adding it's time to have a debate about how to move forward "in a way that truly unites the nation". 

To recap, the polarising date marks the day Captain Arthur Phillip proclaimed British sovereignty on Australian soil in 1788. 

But a growing movement has labelled the occasion "Invasion Day”, identifying it as the beginning of the colonisation of Indigenous Australians.

The Morrison government has stalled on a referendum on constitutional recognition, with Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt saying it's "too important [to] rush". 

You can read the full story from my colleague, Tom Stayner, here:

26 January 2021, 4:02 pm

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe: 'We need a treaty'

At an Invasion Day rally in Melbourne, Lidia Thorpe, Victoria's first Indigenous representative to the Senate, told the crowd of about 5,000 masked protesters that Australia needs a treaty "to resolve the war that was declared on our people almost 250 years ago". 

"No more bulls*** symbolic gestures," the Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman said. 

"No more change the date, no more Uluru Statement, no more Constitutional recognition, no more 'Survival Day'. This is Invasion Day and we need a treaty." 

Senator Thorpe made a similar impassioned call for change to end the injustices experienced by First Nations people in her maiden speech to Parliament last December. 

You can read more about it from my colleague, Tom Stayner, here: 

26 January 2021, 3:50 pm

'We are so happy to be Australian citizens'

Today also marked the moment more than 12,000 people became Australian citizens across the country. 

At a scaled back citizenship ceremony in Canberra, 20 people from ten countries received their citizenship from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

This included Mahantesh Urolagin, his wife Gayatri and daughters Sonal, 13, and Sejal, 6.

Mr Urolagin said he felt "blessed" to now call Australia home. 

"It's a great pleasure to be a citizen of this country and [I] feel blessed and privileged to get the citizenship and to pledge loyalty to this country is important to us," he told SBS News. 

Source: Ben Patrick / SBS News

Adriana Castaneda, her husband Oswaldo Villarreal and five-year-old daughter Sophia from Colombia said the long citizenship process was worth the wait. 

"The process has been long - it hasn't been easy - but we are so happy to be Australian citizens," Ms Castaneda told SBS News.  

"The quality of life for Australia is amazing. We are so happy to be here - we love our country but Australia has so much to offer to new citizens."


Source: Ben Patrick / SBS News

26 January 2021, 2:57 pm

'My history is everyone's history'

It's become standard practice to begin events in Australia with Welcome to Country ceremonies, and with a plethora of events happening today, many will be carried out by the end of the day.

The ceremonies see traditional custodians formally welcoming others onto their land, but for Brendan Kerin, it's also an opportunity to make sure the history of Indigenous Australians - and his own story - isn't forgotten.

SBS News reporter Jennifer Scherer spoke with the Marrawarra and Barkindji man about the way he delivers his addresses, which you can read below:

26 January 2021, 2:45 pm

The Egyptian couple providing a social outlet for lonely senior citizens in Melbourne

Egyptian couple Raouf and Souria Youssef have spent their life in Australia working to reduce loneliness in Melbourne's elderly Arabic-speaking community. 

This year, they were among almost 850 people recognised for their service to the community with Australia Day honours.

Source: SBS News/John Podolski

“I feel very proud of this [award] but to be honest I am very shy to talk about it," Souria told SBS News ahead of 26 January.

"When I did the work, I didn’t think I would be sitting in front of the camera talking about it."

You can read their full story below, reported by SBS News journalist Lucy Murray. 

26 January 2021, 2:15 pm

Journalist Kerry O'Brien on why he rejected his Australia Day honour

Veteran journalist Kerry O'Brien has explained why he chose to reject his Australia Day honour in an interview on NITV's Sunrise Ceremony broadcast. 

"There is a top-level of award, which is an AC, and one was awarded to Margaret Court who was indisputably one of the great tennis of all time and she was and is Australian," he said. 

"But she was being awarded a medal which I think was promoting her viewpoints which are fundamentally, in my view, prejudicial and harmful and disrespectful to so many people."

The former tennis champion has come under fire in recent years for her outspoken views on LGBTQI+ people and same-sex marriage.

"We talk about injustice to Indigenous people, there has been a long term prejudice and injustice to a whole group of people on the basis of their sexuality," O'Brien, who was to be made an Officer of the Order of Australia, continued.

"It's not that Margaret Court doesn't have a right to express her views, you can explain your position without being damaging and hurtful and I see it in a way as a negation of our right to free speech when we use it to hurt others. 

"My problem, in the end, is not so much with Margaret Court as it is with the system that made a judgement that she deserved the highest civil honour in the land, which many people will take, rightly or not, as an endorsement of those views which are so hurtful and so harmful.

"And I felt I couldn't accept the award on that basis."

26 January 2021, 2:03 pm

Thousands march in Brisbane and Melbourne for Invasion Day rallies

Thousands of people have turned out to protest Australia Day in Melbourne and Brisbane, along with smaller events taking place right across the country. Here, photos from the events show the scale of the crowds. 


Source: AAP

Up to 5,000 people have marched in an Invasion Day protest in Melbourne according to police estimates, despite COVID-19 restrictions limiting outdoor gatherings to 100 people. 

The protesters chanted "always was, always will be Aboriginal land" and "no pride in genocide" as they made their way towards Flinders Street in groups of 100. Police told AAP no arrests had been made as of 1pm. 


Source: AAP

Huge crowds also showed up to the Brisbane Invasion Day march, with thousands making their way along the protest route towards Musgrave Park.

A large Aboriginal flag was held by tens of protesters as they moved through the city. There is currently a 100-person cap on outdoor gatherings in the state.

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