NEWS
26/01/2020 4:41 PM AEDT | Updated 26/01/2020 5:19 PM AEDT

Invasion Day: Tens Of Thousands Gather Across Australia For Survival Day Marches

“It’s time for us Aboriginal people to rise and take back this land, and take back authority and take back your rights."

Don Arnold/Getty Images
People march down Elizabeth St during the Invasion Day march on January 26, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

Invasion Day rallies were held across Australia on Sunday to oppose the celebration of Australia Day on January 26, with Black deaths in custody a major theme at most events. 

Thousands turned out at marches as far and wide as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart,  Canberra, Townsville and Darwin.

Invasion Day rallies have gained momentum over the years with a movement to change the date of Australia’s national holiday from January 26, which marks the arrival of the First Fleet and anniversary of the day Australia ceased to be controlled by the people who have lived here and maintained the land for 60,000 years.

Don Arnold/Getty Images
Australia Day or Invasion Day is the official national day of Australia and is celebrated annually on January 26 to commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet to Sydney in 1788.

It also marks the beginning of more than two centuries of trauma for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inhabitants of Australia, who were dispossessed of their lands, massacred by settlers and decimated by European diseases, directly leading to modern people of Indigenous heritage being subject to social, health and employment outcomes far below those of the wider Australian population.

Tens of thousands of people gathered at Sydney’s Hyde Park for the city’s official Invasion Day speeches and march.  

“For First Nations Peoples and Allies, the 26th of January is the day that marked the Invasions of our Peoples,” organisers FIRE Fighting In Resistance Equally said. 

“It is offensive to celebrate genocide and the attempted subjugation of over 500 different nations.” 

HuffPost Australia was on the ground to hear from the family of Tane Chatfield, a 22-year-old man who died in Tamworth Correctional Centre in 2017. 

At the time, NSW Police Force said in a statement “it’s not being treated as suspicious.”

But Chatfiled’s family do not believe he took his own life. 

“We found our boy naked with only a pair of hospital socks on,” Chatfield’s mother Nioka Chatfield told the crowd at Hyde Park on Sunday. 

“For three days, our boy laid naked there with toxins coming out of his nose that I had to wipe away.  

“They even cut off his rat’s tail he’d been growing since he was 13 years of age. To an Aboriginal woman, that hair is important.  That belongs to me, that belongs to his baby. Will I ever get it back?”

Nioka Chatfield urged the crowd to call for independent enquiries when it comes to Black deaths in custody and not just investigations by police.

Don Arnold/Getty Images
Latrell Mitchell marches down Elizabeth St during a protest march on January 26, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

“There is a law that they investigate their own,”  she said.  

“We need five per cent, people - to change this law.  Then we might be able to get a fair go and the deaths in custody might stop. 

“I’m asking you today to really get involved with the “Black Deaths In Custody” (movement)  because it’s a painful, painful journey. There’s mothers before me and there are mothers after me.

“It’s time for us Aboriginal people to rise and take back this land, and take back authority and take back your rights.  

“Don’t sit behind anymore fences.”  

Traffic in Sydney’s CBD was brought to a standstill as tens of thousands of protestors marched from Hyde Park down Elizabeth Street, onto Eddie Avenue and down Broadway to Yabun Festival at Victoria Park.   An event that celebrates 60,000 years of Indigenous culture and survival. 

Here are images from Invasion Day 2020 rallies around the country: