Posted on Tuesday, 14 February
January 26 marked 235 years since the start of Britain’s colonial invasion and genocidal settlement project in Australia. Across the country, tens of thousands of people protested the crimes that continue to be perpetrated against First Nations peoples and the racist narrative that January 26 should be a date to celebrate. In Melbourne, Victorian Socialists was proud to march in solidarity with First Nations people.
Since the very beginning, First Nations peoples have resisted colonial oppression, and 2023 also marks 85 years since First Nations people declared the Day of Mourning and protested white Australia’s ‘Australia Day’ celebrations. While the Federal Government remains obstinate on the question, every year more people join the fight for January 26 to be recognised for what it is is. The ‘change the date’ movement has massive and increasing support: every year, surveys indicate that more and more people are convinced that January 26 should be known as Invasion Day.
Several councils, including the City of Melbourne in September last year, have resolved to recognise January 26 as Invasion Day. This is a testament to the mass rallies and growing defiance that has defined the public holiday in recent years.This year, days before Invasion Day, the Victorian government quietly scrapped its planned Australia Day parade and fireworks. But this small concession doesn't change the fact that under Victorian Labor the number of imprisoned First Nations people has drastically increased, and at a massively higher rate than for the general population.
Federal Labor is no better. Last September, Anthony Albanese rejected calls to change the date, saying that the focus should be on "recognising that our nation’s birth certificate should proudly recognise that we did not begin in 1788, which is what the 26th of January commemorates, it began at least 60,000 years ago with the oldest continuous civilisation on earth". His response is emblematic of Labor’s ineffectual, foot-in-both-camps approach, whose idea of progressive action on Invasion Day is to repeal the Morrison-era ban which prevented public servants from opting to take a different day off.
Despite Albanese repeatedly stating that his priority is to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, he seems deaf to the voices of the generations of First Nations activists who have led the march against Australia Day. The Voice was in the spotlight at rallies across the country, with First Nations organisers speaking to the limitations of the proposal being pushed by the government.
It has been decades since Labor was considered a party interested in or capable of achieving serious, progressive change. The current government, however, seems especially happy to bask in the climate of low expectations and normalised oppression left behind by nearly nine years of conservative power. In the lead-up to Invasion Day, Labor announced new Intervention-style restrictions in central Australia. This is consistent with previous ALP governments' approach of maintaining and extending Howard’s brutal and paternalistic policies in the Northern Territory.
Every year, Invasion Day rallies prove that justice can only be won through a fighting movement from the bottom up, not through the feeble prevarications of the political elite. Victorian Socialists is committed to fighting alongside First Nations people for sovereignty and self-determination. In Brisbane, Will Sim urged protestors to continue the grassroots struggle against First Nations oppression: "I think we deserve so much more than a voice. I think we deserve liberation. And to get there, we’ll need to fight!".