We Asked Invasion Day Protesters What They Want for the Future

Ideas from the Invasion Day marchers on how to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians

27 January 2016, 12:00am

All images by author

For many, Australia Day means Invasion Day. Yesterday thousands of people in Sydney marched for greater national recognition of our history, and to forward ideas on how the lives of Indigenous Australians can be improved.

VICE went along to ask marchers what they think will make the future better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Ken Canning addressing the crowd

Ken Canning: Over the last decade NSW has had zero deaths in custody, so the Custody Notification Service (CNS) has been an enormous success. Even with Royal Commission Recommendations, it was due to be cut until we forced their hand by taking the fight to the streets and to the Federal Government, where we won. Hopefully now it will be easier for other states to receive the same help from the federal government.

Our biggest issue is that children are still being forcibly taken from their families by the Department of Family and Community Services. Aboriginal Children whose parents are locked up should be left with family members, and with the momentum we're getting from rallies like these I think we can stop it.

Railway Square

A dance brought traffic in all directions around Central's Railway Square to a standstill. Though the fight for treaty is brought up occasionally on a wide scale, nothing close to a deal appears to be on the horizon. However, other battles are being identified and fought without great public awareness.

Nathan Moran, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Nathan Moran: In 2014, the NSW Government tried to amend the Crown Lands Act so they could prevent us from claiming unused beaches and coastal land, because they're afraid of us claiming back valuable property. But we've made 1400 local land claims and won less than 20 of them, so these small victories are the only things we have.

We're starting to work with international lawyers to work out how we can take these land issues into the territory of human rights on a global scale. We want the same international help as the Maori, Inuit, and Navajo, because our rights will become a whole lot clearer when it goes further than fighting over individual land claims. For now it's about mobilising our resources and redirecting them, and to educate our mob on the issue.

Journalist John Pilger addressing the crowd

John told the crowd that, "Australia is a version of apartheid South Africa. Until Indigenous Australians can claim back their nationhood, we cannot be proud of our own."

Jenny Munro, founder of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Jenny Munro: Affordable homes for Indigenous people are now being built in Redfern against appeals from the Aboriginal Housing Company. Until we reach a treaty there will be no true step forward for Indigenous Australians. How many UN knuckle-smashings does Australia need to be hit with before they finally start treating Indigenous people with the respect they deserve?

Felon Mason, a volunteer at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Felon Mason: I do see some small wins here and there in our movement, but no real progress. We need our own voices being represented, not Government-picked lackeys. There needs to be a black section of parliament featuring people chosen by our community. We need to start getting politicians to at least speak of a treaty before any real progress can get made. In the meantime, getting rid of the Recognise campaign, that'll help. Constitutional recognition is a distraction from real progress.

Elizabeth Jarrett, a volunteer at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Elizabeth Jarrett: We don't experience a lot of wins, but to see so many people of all races and ages come out to support our cause; today was a win for me. Our goal is to stop the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their homes, which will begin with the Grandmothers Against Removals protest in Canberra on Sorry Day (May 26).

The march ended beside the iconic Town Hall, before a further silent walk to Australian Hall, the site of a Day of Mourning protest in 1938.

Follow Jason on Twitter.