“Aboriginal people, I think, it’s a day of reflection and you think about the atrocities of the past, the slavery, the stolen wages and the endless other human rights abuses,” Mapoon Aboriginal Council chairman Peter Guivarra said.
“They’ll never be forgotten like some of the things I call institutionalised terrorism, but we must learn to forgive,” the Cape York leader added.
A rally, highlighting the death in custody of an Aboriginal man while in police custody on Palm Island late last year, has been planned for Brisbane.
Hundreds of people are expected to turn out at the Roma Street Forum and march through the city to Musgrave Park.
Indigenous spokesman Sam Watson said the demonstrators would be calling for changes to the way Aboriginal people are treated by the justice system.
“Where is this going to stop?” Mr Watson asked.
“We’re saying it won’t stop until every Aboriginal person taken into custody survives the experience.”
In Canberra, as festivities got off to an early start last night on the lawns of Parliament House, well-known Aboriginal lawyer and activist Michael Mansell spoke out.
“People are so busy celebrating, they have no need to review the morality of having Australia Day on the 26th of January, which was the day whites invaded and began killing blacks,” Mr Mansell said.
The Prime Minister John Howard, who was on hand to announce West Australian plastic surgeon Dr Fiona Wood as the 2005 Australian of the Year, took a more optimistic stance.
“My view is that the best thing that we can do for the indigenous people of this country is to make sure that they get their fair share of the bounty and the opportunities of Australia,” the PM said.
Outside Old Parliament House, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy is marking its 33-year-long campaign with a three-day corroboree to celebrate the survival of indigenous Australians.
Most of the other capitals will be holding their annual ‘survival’ concerts, attracting the cream of the country’s indigenous talent.