Tens of thousands of people – many wearing the black, yellow and red colours of the aboriginal flag – gathered in Melbourne, The Age reported, while thousands more took to the streets of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
For many Aborigines, who trace their lineage on the island continent back 50,000 years, January 26 is “Invasion Day”, the anniversary of the beginning of British colonisation of their lands and their brutal subjugation.
“I'm here to commemorate all the aboriginal people who were murdered during the first stage of settlement,” protester Neville Scarlett told The Age.
While the rallies were mostly peaceful, in Sydney a 20-year-old man was arrested and a policeman and protester were injured, New South Wales state police said.
Australians wearing the black, yellow and red colours of the aboriginal flag protest Australia Day
The protester demand the date be changed as it celebrates the arrival of white settlement
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he did not support changing the date of Australia Day, which is celebrated as a public holiday with festivities from fireworks over Sydney Harbour and citizenship events to ancient aboriginal ceremonies.
I'm here to commemorate all the aboriginal people who were murdered during the first stage of settlement
Protester Neville Scarlett
“Everyone is entitled to a point of view but I think most Australians accept January 26 as Australia Day,” Turnbull told reporters in the national capital Canberra.
The protests come at a time when right-wing nationalist politics is on the rise in Australia, similar to the United States and Europe, and there is little political appetite to tackle aboriginal rights issue.
Aborigines only gained citizenship in 1967 and a vote on whether to recognise Aborigines in the constitution as the country's first people has been on hold for years.
Australia day is celebrated as a public holiday with various festivities
The best things to come out of Australia
Tue, January 26, 2016
From the late Heath Ledger, to hot model Miranda Kerr here are the coolest of all things Australian.
1 of 20
Elle MacPherson, 51 flaunts her amazing sun-kissed body on board a yacht
Australia's 700,000 or so indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still struggle with the impacts of colonisation and track near the bottom of the country's 23 million citizens in almost every economic and social indicator.
Aborigines face a 10-year gap in life expectancy compared with other Australians and make up 27 per cent of the prison population, but are just three per cent of the population.