• Norma Bamblett second from the left with her family January 26 2021 Invasion Day rally Melbourne. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The Invasion Day rally called for an end to black deaths in custody and for Australia Day to be replaced by an official day of mourning.
Brooke Fryer

26 Jan 2021 - 3:56 PM  UPDATED 26 Jan 2021 - 5:26 PM

On Wurundjeri Country in Melbourne The Invasion Day Rally, organised by Warriors Against the Aboriginal Resistance, saw thousands of people show up, standing together in unity.

There was a huge police presence at Parliament House and surrounding streets, including outside Federation Square where the mass crowd came to stand still by the afternoon.

The Invasion Day rally called for an end to black deaths in custody and for Australia Day to be replaced by an official day of mourning.

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe told NITV News that the government should start listening to the voice of its First Nations people.

“We need all of Australia to stand with us and to call this a day of what it is, and that is a day of mourning,” she said.

“We’ve been at war for more than 250 years, there was a war declared on this country’s First people, and this day represents that war.” 

She said changing the meaning of the day allows opportunity for people to “come together and to heal together.”

“With a treaty in this country no one will be left behind,” she said.

Aunty Shirley Blackwood said she was appalled by the ongoing treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within its justice system. 

“Tanya Day was my cousin and it was very sad to hear that they could do that to people, to just throw them in jail and leave them,” she said. "They’ve got to start looking after us. We’ve had enough.”

Ms Day died in custody in 2017 after being arrested for public drunkenness, having fallen asleep while on a train on her way to visit her youngest daughter.

Yorta Yorta man Rickie Martin felt emotional speaking with NITV News about the over representation of First Nations people in custody, but was reminded of his strength in being an Aboriginal person.

“We’re mourning the loss of our people and the continuous downfall of just how the system treats our people,” he said.

“I believe changing the date won’t do anything because we will still be going through the same kind of dramas and traumas by just being recognised as Indigenous people on this land.

“There’s nearly 150,000 reasons to be proud to be an Indigenous person, we are survivors of this systematic garbage.” 

In Australia 28 per cent of the prison population is made up off Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, despite making up only 3.3 per cent of the wider population.

Attendees of Melbourne’s rally remained COVID-safe with everyone wearing a mask.

Restrictions in Melbourne have a cap on 100 people for outdoor gatherings.

Organisers said they were not going to let restrictions stop them from marching, so divided the crowd up into groups of 100 spaced ten metres a part in order to stay in line with the COVID-19 health orders.