Hundreds march for 'invasion day' protest at Old Parliament House in Canberra
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Hundreds march for 'invasion day' protest at Old Parliament House in Canberra

Hundreds marched to Old Parliament House to mark "invasion day" on Friday, declaring Australia Day was not a time of celebration.

The march started at Garema Place before making its way across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, ending at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at Old Parliament House.

The 'invasion day' protest in Canberra on Friday.

The 'invasion day' protest in Canberra on Friday.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

Traffic was temporarily brought to a standstill while police escorted the protesters who chanted "always was, always will be, Aboriginal land".

Embassy fire keeper Kumba - who goes by one name - said Australia Day was not for celebration.

The 'invasion day' protest in Canberra. Pictured is Kumba, the fire keeper.

The 'invasion day' protest in Canberra. Pictured is Kumba, the fire keeper.

Photo: Jamila Toderas
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"Today is all about a day of mourning," he said.

"Australians need to understand that January 26 is a day we were invaded and our people were massacred.

"People say we need to come together. Well, Australia Day needs to change.

"We are here to mourn our people."

The 'invasion day' protest in Canberra.

The 'invasion day' protest in Canberra.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

Kumba - who has lived in Canberra for about 10 years - said he identified as aboriginal before Australian.

He said he was confident Australia Day would eventually be moved, but advocates needed to get conservative Aboriginal voices on side first.

The protest marches through Canberra.

The protest marches through Canberra.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

Canberra woman Sylvia Gunn said she came to the rally because Australia Day is not for celebrating.

She said she believed white Australia was not against changing the date.

"I think the debate is progressing but I think people have to be less apathetic," Ms Gunn said.

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury told crowds at Garema Place that Australia Day was a divisive day for the community.

"It is a day of dispossession rather than one of unity and celebration," he said.

"Australia's history includes some dark periods and it's important today we reflect on those truths.

"Massacres of aboriginal people were widespread across the colonial frontier.

"Between 1784 and 1852 there are at least 150 recorded massacres in eastern Australia of Aboriginal people.

"We cannot heal the wounds of our past by ignoring this true history of our country."

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Rally spokesperson Chris "Pelltharie" Tomlins called for the public holiday to be kept "as a day of honest history, remembrance, lament and atonement".

"Let those who would glorify white settler triumphalism, go search for another public holiday to wave their Union Jacks," he said. "They may find one when an Australian Republic is created that accepts Aboriginal sovereignty as its foundation and starting point."

Daniella White is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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