• Protestors scream in agreement during speeches, at the Invasion Day March on January 26, 2019 in Sydney. (Cole Bennetts/Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images AsiaPac
NSW Police have issued a stern warning in the lead up to Invasion Day rallies in Sydney.
Brooke Fryer

25 Jan 2021 - 3:07 PM  UPDATED 25 Jan 2021 - 3:07 PM

People planning to attend protests in Sydney on January 26 have been threatened with fines, and possible jail time, if the current public health orders are breached.

Lizzie Jarret, an organiser of the Invasion Day Rally in Sydney, said "it's disgusting" that NSW Police are threatening an organising team.

"We've spent the last three weeks trying to come together to get the police to help us... [but] they won't come to the table with us," the Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung and Dunghutti woman told NITV News.

Despite police threats, organisers aren't backing down.

"The reality is, tomorrow is going to go ahead, it's First Nations and sovereigns' rights to stand up," said Ms Jarret.

"Especially on this day, the most important day, that teaches the whole nation about the truth and reality of who they are, where they walk and how we move forward being proud."

"This one day is our birthrights, our death right, our massacre right, our stolen children's right, our land massacre rights, our poisoned water rights, this day means everything to everyone that lives in this nation right now," she said.

"I put it to David Elliott to pull your finger out and stop making it out that we are the ones not abiding by the rules here."

COVID-19 restrictions in Greater Sydney limit protests to 500 people or 3000 in outdoor settings. However, around 2800 people have expressed interest on social media in attending the annual Invasion Day protest at the Domain on Tuesday morning.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said police will be in attendance, enforcing public health orders.

"We've issued a number of fines [for previous protests] and people have been before courts and people tomorrow will be exposed to fines because they'll be in breach of public health orders," Mr Elliott told 2GB on Monday.

"I can't believe any organisation, let alone one that pretends to advocate for Indigenous rights, would say 'let's put aside the risk of COVID-19, let's breach public health orders, let's get together despite the pleas of the community asking them not to get together'."

Ms Jarrett said organisers are not encouraging people to get themselves in trouble with the police, and everyone should remain COVID safe while protesting.

"Be safe, be diligent, pay attention to your surroundings, do not engage yourself with the police... and listen to the organisers tomorrow," she said.

Mr Elliott said the warnings are not racially motivated.

"NSW Police have never told people they can't get together because the position they're advocating is unpalatable. We encourage people to express those views, that's what sets us apart from other countries," Mr Elliott said.

"Anyone who's claiming it's racial, that's absolutely nonsensical."

Mr Elliot said the event may put vulnerable people at risk.

"Indigenous Australians, we know from historical collection of data, are quite vulnerable when it comes to these types of diseases," he said.

He encouraged people to express their views in alternative ways, while continuing to wait out the pandemic.

"Formal complaint" for ABC 

Meanwhile, Mr Elliott said he will be filing a "formal complaint" against an article published by the ABC he described as "breathtakingly irresponsible".

Posted on Sunday morning, the article is titled "Australia Day/Invasion Day 2021 events guide for Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin" and lists details of events held on January 26 - including the Invasion Day rallies in Sydney and elsewhere.

"I can't believe the national broadcaster, which is funded by taxpayers, have taken it upon themselves to promote ... an illegal event in breach of public health orders," said Mr Elliott.

"If you ever wanted evidence the ABC is out of touch with reality then yesterday was exactly the case … with the ABC to take it upon themselves to change the name (from Australia Day) to Invasion Day just goes to show how out of touch they are with Australian society."

An ABC spokesperson said the article wasn't aimed at promoting the event.

"The ABC did not 'promote' anything. It reported on a range of major planned events around Australia, including the City of Perth's five-day festival, a flag raising ceremony in Townsville, free concerts in Adelaide and the fireworks over Sydney Harbour," the spokesperson told the Herald.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has also lashed out at the ABC for its "incorrect" headline.

"The ABC has clearly got this one wrong," Mr Fletcher said.

"The name of our national day is well understood and supported, and for the ABC to suggest otherwise - that in some way Invasion Day is interchangeable with Australia Day - is clearly wrong."

"The name of Australia Day is reflected in legislation across Australia. More important, it is reflected in the usage of the overwhelming majority of Australians.

"While the ABC has editorial independence, and I do not control what it says, I call on the ABC to correct this inaccurate article."

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