WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains names, images and descriptions of people who have died.
The 22nd of September was a public holiday around Australia, introduced by the prime minister as a day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II’s death. While many were saddened by the news and rejoiced at having a day off, Indigenous groups and their supporters rallied across the major cities with calls to “abolish the monarchy”.
In Sydney, hundreds gathered at the city’s Town Hall, with signs depicting the dark past of Australian colonialism and land grab. “Blood on their diamonds, blood on their hands”, one read. “Couldn’t care less ‘bout the monarch, Imma set fire to the kingdom”, read another – lyrics to indigenous rapper Barkaa’s track “Black Matriarchy”.
The throng of speeches, delivered by both Indigenous activists and other First Nations people from around the world – Palestine included – came passionately. In one instance, the crowd began chanting “Lizzie in a box,” a chime popularized by a viral TikTok of Irish football fans.
“January 26th is our day of mourning, and still we have society telling us to get over it. Well, how about you get over the monarchy and her death. I don’t feel sorry for no rapists, I don’t feel sorry for no thief, I don’t feel sorry for the people that came and invaded these lands,” boomed Kyah Patten in her speech – the niece of Kamilaroi man Eddie Murray, who died in custody almost 40 years ago .
“What have they done to help you as a people? All they do is take, take, take.”
“Fuck the crown, fuck the government, fuck the churches – and if you don’t like it, fuck you too,” Indigenous rights activist and Dunghutti, Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung woman, Lizzie Jarret, added.
As the crowd marched from Town Hall to the Queen Victoria statue outside of Sydney’s Law Courts, the crowd could be heard chanting, “Sovereignty, never ceded,” and “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.”
When they arrived, protestors created a circle, inviting the matriarchy or women from the crowd to dance inside, before pulling out red balloons pasted with the Queen’s face and a Crown-shaped pinata soaked in an imitation of blood. The balloons were soon popped and the pinata obliterated with sticks and stomps.
A performance by Indigenous hip-hop artist, Dobby, listing out the names of Indigenous people who have died in custody, followed. Among them were Tanya Day and Kamanjayi Walker.
“What I hope people take away from here is the voice of truth and understanding what Australia represents to the first nations people,” Jarrett told VICE.
“And how this crown and this Queen and this government are calling for us to be silent. We will never be silent when we are the sovereigns of this land.”
Regarding the future and the potential for a referendum to bring an Indigenous voice to parliament, Lizzie says the opportunities are almost too far gone.
“We’ve already seen a referendum way back when. It did nothing for our people. This government's false promises, voices to Parliament, all this. If you’re here today you need to hear that the idea is truth talking. They need to come on the ground, they need to be with us. Not make laws for us, without us. We need self determination. We have rights to be sovereign in our own land.”