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Demonstrators march for Indigenous rights on 'Australia Day'

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
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Protesters take part in an "Invasion Day" demonstration on Australia Day in Sydney on January 26, 2022.
Protesters take part in an "Invasion Day" demonstration on Australia Day in Sydney on January 26, 2022.   -   Copyright  STEVEN SAPHORE / AFP

Thousands of people took to the streets across Australia on Wednesday to rally for indigenous rights on the country's national day.

Celebrated on January 26, Australia Day marks the landing of British colonists' ships in Sydney Cove and the settlement that was then established by those onboard in 1788.

Every year across the country demonstrators hold some of the largest gatherings of indigenous activists and supporters. They call the holiday "Invasion Day" and call for an end to its celebration.

"Thank you all for coming here today, to understand what today represents, for First Nations people. Today's national holiday, you're told to go and have a beer, and a barbecue, and celebrate the genocide of our people," said First Nations activist Elizabeth Jarrett.

"So I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts, from all First Nations people that stand here today, respect going out to anybody who's not First Nations who stepped outside their privilege."

In the nation's capital, protesters marched towards Parliament House and called for the public holiday to be abolished.

"It was Invasion Day for us, like a lot of my ancestors got basically murdered on this day, hunted down like animals and so I would just want to get recognition," said 25-year-old protester Clifford Peter.

"We only got each other so that's most important like to come out and stand with one another," Peter added.

Meanwhile, similar protests were also held by demonstrators in other cities including Sydney and Brisbane.

In Sydney, a traditional dawn indigenous ceremony was held close to the Harbour Bridge.

During the ceremony, Yvonne Weldon, the local Aboriginal Land Council deputy chairperson, called for "togetherness".

"Regardless of whether you call this Invasion Day, Survival Day, or Australia Day, we need to heal and we can only do this together," she said.

The traditional 'ferrython' was also held, with spectators watching as boats raced around a course in the harbour.

In Melbourne, a statue of British explorer Captain James Cook was painted red.