Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Australia Day protesters seek change

MAJORITY RULES:Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that he did not support changing the date of Australia Day, as most accept Jan. 26 as the right day

Reuters, SYDNEY

People march in an “Invasion Day” protest on Australia Day in Brisbane yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Thousands of Australians yesterday staged protest marches demanding the date of Australia Day, Jan. 26, be changed, as it celebrates the arrival of European settlement and the beginning of injustices against Aborigines.

Tens of thousands of people — many wearing the black, yellow and red colors of the Aboriginal flag — gathered in Melbourne, the Age newspaper reported, while thousands more took to the streets of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

For many Aborigines, Jan. 26 is “Invasion Day,” the anniversary of the beginning of British colonization of their lands and their brutal subjugation.

“I’m here to commemorate all the Aboriginal people who were murdered during the first stage of settlement,” protester Neville Scarlett told the Age.

In Sydney a 20-year-old man was arrested and a police officer and protester were injured, New South Wales state police said.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he did not support changing the date of Australia Day, which is celebrated as a public holiday, with festivities from fireworks over Sydney Harbor and citizenship events to ancient Aboriginal ceremonies.

“Everyone is entitled to a point of view, but I think most Australians accept January 26 as Australia Day,” Turnbull told reporters in the capital, Canberra.

The protests come at a time when nationalist politics is on the rise in Australia and there is little political appetite to tackle Aboriginal rights issues.

Aborigines only gained citizenship in 1967 and a vote on whether to recognize Aborigines in the constitution as the country’s first people has been on hold for years.

Australia’s about 700,000 indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people track near the bottom of the nation’s 23 million citizens in almost every economic and social indicator.

Aborigines face a 10-year gap in life expectancy compared with other Australians and make up 27 percent of the prison population, but are just 3 percent of the population.

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