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Naarm unites for January 26 rallies

Tens of thousands of people turned out in Naarm on January 26, with the crowd lining the steps of Parliament and spilling into the CBD streets in protest of the public holiday marking the anniversary of the beginning of colonisation.

Gathering on Wurundjeri land, people called for a day of mourning to be officially observed across Australia.

Some called for the date to be changed to better represent the many communities across Australia.

Handmade signs and banners were held in their hundreds, painted with slogans asking to "change the date" and "stop the genocide" alongside calls for Treaty and for the closure of Don Dale Prison.

Organisers highlighted the fact Australia was the only Commonwealth nation which does not have a treaty with First Peoples, lamenting the fact colonisation was being celebrated on January 26, instead of honestly examined and understood.

"How can we rejoice when we are the only country that actively celebrates the colonisation of their First Nations people," one speaker said.

"People need to be educated on the thousands of massacres…the loss of culture…there is nothing to celebrate on this day."

Thousands lined the CBD streets on Friday. (Image: Jarred Cross)

Alongside the wide-ranging support for First Nations people, a significant portion of the crowd were seen with signs, banners and slogans showing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

"Land you steal; land you bomb; land you murder for; is not land you own," one organiser chanted.

"We are the oldest living culture in the world; Isn't that something to be proud of and acknowledged, not swept under the rug?"

Following two hours of speeches, a procession chanted: "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land" heading south along Bourke street towards Flinders Station and over the Yarra for the Share the Spirit festival at Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

There was a significant police presence throughout the CBD. National Indigenous Times witnessed no arrests or violence at the peaceful rally.

Earlier on Friday, mourning dawn services took place around the city.

At St Kilda Beach, Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council hosted its annual We-Akon Dilinja reflection ceremony with performances and speeches from community, Elders, local MPs and Port Phillip Council Mayor Heather Cunsolo.

Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council, National Australia Day Council and City of Port Phillip hosted We-Akon Dilinja at dawn on Friday. (Image: Jarred Cross)

BLSC chair Jason Briggs told the early morning crowd the previous day's toppling of a nearby Captain Cook statue went against his aspirations of a unified journey together.

"History happened. We're not prisoners of our past, what happened to us or our predecessors, both yours and mine. So to the naysayers, I say build a bridge and get over it. And if we do so let's build a stronger and wider bridge of justice and resolution that brings us together in the spirit of generosity," he said.

"The power of history is it can be redefined as a source of our strength of moving forward with dignity, pride in common aspiration that benefits everyone."

The statue of James Cook on St Kilda's foreshore was sawn off at the ankles in the early hours of January 25. (Image: Jarred Cross)

He said the people responsible for felling the statue "do not speak for us".

Mourning ceremonies and rallies were held all around the country on Friday.


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