Thousands to Unite in Sombre Protest Against January 26 Australia Day Celebrations

Thousands of Australians will gather for the Day of Mourning Dawn Service in Melbourne and across the nation on January 26 for the fifth year in a row, in a protest against Australia Day celebrations.

The sombre gatherings, which have evolved into a steadfast tradition, bring together mourners at the crack of dawn to honour the memory of First Peoples who perished since invasion, pay tribute to the warriors of the Frontier Wars, and acknowledge the resilience of the world’s oldest living culture.

This movement gained traction in 2019 when Senator Lidia Thorpe orchestrated a Dawn Service at Kings Domain to commemorate the legacy of Elders and activists who initially advocated for a Day of Mourning on January 26 in 1938.

Australia Day, celebrated annually on January 26, marks the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, an event considered by some as the beginning of European settlement in the continent. However, this date holds a starkly different significance for Indigenous Australians, who view it as Invasion Day or Survival Day, sparking protests against the festivities. Credit: supplied.
Australia Day, celebrated annually on January 26, marks the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, an event considered by some as the beginning of European settlement in the continent. However, this date holds a starkly different significance for Indigenous Australians, who view it as Invasion Day or Survival Day, sparking protests against the festivities. Credit: supplied.

“The significance of January 26 is changing for this nation,” Senator Thorpe said.

“To me, it’s heartening to see that millions of people around this country, not just First Peoples, now recognise January 26 as a Day of Mourning, commemoration and reflection, knowing it’s not a day to celebrate.

“This is Truth-telling in action, and if you’ve ever been to a First Nations event on January 26, you would have seen the healing power it can have, and the way it can unite us.”

Back in 1938, Yorta Yorta man William Cooper, alongside Jack Patten, William Ferguson, and other community leaders, orchestrated a silent march from Town Hall to Australian Hall in Sydney, marking the inception of the Day of Mourning.

Today, 85 years later, an escalating number of individuals are opting to unite on January 26 at Indigenous-led events, choosing reflection and solidarity with First Peoples over jubilation.

Aboriginal men are seen chained alongside a British convict during the 1900s. Credit: supplied.
Aboriginal men are seen chained alongside a British convict during the 1900s. Credit: supplied.

Gunditjmara Woman and current VIC NAIDOC Chair, Marcia Galea, hailed this year’s theme.

“This year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Keep the Fire Burning, Blak, Loud and Proud’ calls for a reclamation of narratives, an amplification of voices, and an unwavering commitment to justice and equality,” Galea said.

“We acknowledge the 38-plus Nations around the State of Victoria, and pay our respect to their Ancestors, their fallen, their Elders and Community, our hearts are with all who mourn this day.”

Senator Thorpe will participate in the 2024 Day of Mourning Dawn Service in Melbourne, orchestrated by Victorian NAIDOC and led by the Wurundjeri Community and the Djirri Djirri Dance Group.

The vigil, scheduled at the King’s Domain Resting Place on Linlithgow Avenue, will take place from 5:00 am to 7:00 am AEDT.

While limited seating will be reserved for Elders, the event is open for all attendees and is organised in support of the Invasion Day Rally and Pay The Rent movements.

It comes as more major retailers are boycotting January 26 celebrations.

Woolworths, Aldi, pet retailer Petstock, Tennis Australia and Cricket Australia are among those who will no longer recognise Australia Day on January 26.

Australia Day, celebrated annually on January 26, marks the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, an event considered by some as the beginning of European settlement in the continent. However, this date holds a starkly different significance for Indigenous Australians, who view it as Invasion Day or Survival Day, sparking protests against the festivities.

For Indigenous Australians, the celebration of Australia Day on January 26 is a painful reminder of the traumatic impacts of colonisation.

The arrival of British settlers led to the dispossession of Indigenous lands, the loss of cultural heritage, and the decimation of Indigenous populations.

The day symbolises the beginning of a long history of injustices, including forced removal of children from their families, discrimination, and systemic disadvantage.

Proponents of changing the date argue that celebrating on January 26 is insensitive to the experiences of Indigenous Australians and perpetuates a historical narrative that marginalises their voices.

The call for a different date reflects a broader push for national reconciliation and acknowledgment of the diverse perspectives that make up Australia’s rich cultural tapestry.

Many Indigenous Australians and their allies argue that a more inclusive and respectful national day should be chosen, one that recognises the country’s shared history and fosters unity.

Some propose focusing on a day that acknowledges the positive aspects of Australian identity while acknowledging the historical challenges faced by Indigenous communities.

Efforts to change the date have gained momentum in recent years, with increasing numbers participating in events like the Day of Mourning Dawn Service. These gatherings provide a platform for Indigenous Australians to express their resilience, cultural pride, and demand for justice.

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