Despite Invasion Day rallies continuing across the country, the major event in Naarm was cancelled in the name of community safety.
For organising group, Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR), this is the first year since 2015 no rally was planned.
“All the rallies we’ve run in the past, we’ve listened to health experts and organised accordingly. This year is no different,” said WAR member, Crystal McKinnon.
Fellow WAR member and Dhadjowa Foundation founder Apryl Day said it was the best choice to protect the community.
“For us, our community, our Elders, our vulnerable people, are in the forefront of our mind and we thought, safety-wise, it was best to make this decision for this year,” she said.
Tarneen Onus-Williams told NITV that whilst rallies in 2021 went ahead, the omicron variant meant a change in plans.
“We know more about this virus than we did 18-months ago, we really do think if we did hold a rally there would be a lot of community who couldn’t attend because so many have COVID-19,” she said.
“It’s really important for us to keep our community safe – particularly when we can’t provide the tools to keep people safe like N-95 masks.”
Other events took place in Naarm to recognise January 26, including Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council’s We-Akon Dilinja (Mourning-Reflection ceremony) in St Kilda and Victoria NAIDOC’s online dawn service.
WAR recommended those wishing to support community, donate to the First Nations organisations and communities.
“It’s about supporting difference causes in the community, and this year in particular it’s about putting your money where your mouth is,” said Ms McKinnon.
“Amplify the voices of Aboriginal people, listen to Aboriginal people, start having conversations within your own family for non-Indigenous people about invasion day and what it means so we can start to change conversations in this country.”
Despite no protests of January 26 being planned, news surfaced in the early morning that a local Captain Cook statue had covered in red paint.
The statue, which stands in Catani Gardens at St Kilda, has been a target in previous years including 2018 when it was doused in pink paint on January 26. In 2021, it was guarded by security.
WAR told NITV News they believe the vandalism to be an expression of frustration against the celebration of Captain Cook.
“It shows how frustrated and angry the community is with the continued celebrations of invasion, colonisation and murder. People are frustrated and angry and this is one of the ways that is being expressed,” said Ms McKinnon.
Ms Onus-Williams agreed.
“People are really frustrated that Captain Cook continues to get celebrated in this country, people are showing this by protesting,” she said.
Ms Day said it reiterated the importance of truth-telling around the nation's history and Aboriginal sovereignty.
“I feel like things like this will continue to happen unless those things are addressed," she said.