Australian Economy

Thousands rally for ‘Invasion Day’ protests on Australia Day holiday

SYDNEY, Jan 26 (Reuters) – Thousands of Australians marked the country’s national holiday on Thursday with rallies in support of the nation’s Indigenous people, many of whom describe the anniversary of the day a British fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour as “Invasion Day”.

In Sydney, the capital of New South Wales – Australia’s most populous state – social media showed a large crowd gathered at an “Invasion Day” rally in the central business district, where some people carried Aboriginal flags and an Indigenous smoking ceremony took place.

Similar actions were scheduled in other Australian state capitals, including in South Australia’s Adelaide where around 2,000 people attended, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Speaking at a flag-raising and citizenship ceremony in Australia’s capital, Canberra, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese honoured the nation’s Indigenous people, who have occupied the land for at least 65,000 years.

“Let us all recognise the unique privilege that we have to share this continent with the world’s oldest continuous culture,” Albanese said.

An annual poll by market research company Roy Morgan released this week showed nearly two-thirds of Australians say Jan. 26 should be considered “Australia Day”, largely unchanged from a year ago. The rest believe it should be “Invasion Day”.

Amid the debate, some companies have adopted flexibility around observance of the holiday. Australia’s largest telecoms company, Telstra Corp Ltd (TLS.AX), this year gave its staff the option to work on Jan. 26 and take another day off instead.

Many of Australia’s 880,000 or so Indigenous people lag behind the country’s 25 million citizens on economic and social indicators in what the government calls “entrenched inequality“.

This year’s holiday comes as Albanese’s centre-left Labor Party government plans a referendum on recognising Indigenous people in the constitution, and requiring consultation with them on decisions that affect their lives.

The constitution, which came into effect in January 1901 and can’t be amended without a referendum, does not refer to the country’s Indigenous people.

Reporting by Sam McKeith; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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