Aussies defy Covid-19 rules to gather at national day protests

PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Thousands of Australians defied coronavirus rules yesterday to protest against the country's national day, held on the anniversary of British colonisation of the vast continent that its indigenous population brands "Invasion Day".

Officially recognised as Australia Day, Jan 26 also sees annual rallies drawing attention to the injustices faced by indigenous people and calls on the government to change the date of the national holiday.

The celebration of the origins of the modern nation is a time of mourning for indigenous Australians, who have inhabited the land for 65,000 years and view the arrival of British settlers in 1788 as the beginning of two centuries of pain and suffering.

Yesterday, thousands of people gathered at a central Sydney park, breaching a 500-person limit on gathering in public places, though organisers called off a march through the city that usually follows.

Five people were arrested, including one who was charged with assaulting a police officer. Protests also took place in other cities across the country, including Brisbane.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'Aussies defy Covid-19 rules to gather at national day protests'. Subscribe