Spectacular Indigenous artwork emblazoned on to the Opera House at dawn heralded the start of Australia Day in Sydney, before thousands rallied against the national holiday.
Kamilaroi woman Rhonda Sampson's vivid artwork was projected onto the Opera House sails at dawn, as the Australian and Indigenous flags were raised in unison on top of the Harbour Bridge, in a symbol of unity, recognition and inclusion.
"I hope my artwork provides an opportunity for us to reflect on and learn about the connection Gadigal people have always had with the land and waters," Sampson said.
"This day brings up a lot of feelings and we need to reflect on that."
Thousands showed the depth of their feelings at the annual "Invasion Day" rally, as speakers called for the abolition of the national Australia Day holiday and the government's plan to install an Indigenous Voice to parliament,
In the 31 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, there have been more than 500 additional deaths.
Wiradjuri woman and Greens candidate for the NSW upper house Lynda-June Coe spoke against the federal government's upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, labelling it a "fallacy".
"White Australia, this is the reckoning - 235 years and we ain't going nowhere," she told the crowd at Sydney's Belmore Park.
"They tried to wipe us out, still here. They tried to breed us out, still here. They tried to commit genocide on us, still here!
"Brisbane, Melbourne, we are all mobilising against the fallacy that is constitutional recognition. My people, this is the voice."
Indigenous anti-mining activist Adrian Burragubba called the government's Voice plan patronising and a form of assimilation.
"This is like a paternalistic attitude, all the time, of telling us, 'We know what's best for you people and we will tell you what's right'," he said.
"We don't want to be assimilated into a constitution written by white people."
The day also marks the 20th anniversary of the WugulOra smoking ceremony at Barangaroo.
The ancient ceremony, attended by dignitaries including Premier Dominic Perrottet and Governor Margaret Beazley, cleanses the way for new beginnings and celebrates the Gadigal people of the Eora nation through music, dance, language, story-telling and ceremony.
After the permanent installation of the Indigenous flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge last year, the premier said he had reflected on the importance of symbolism, backed by action.
"This is this is not a symbol of division, but a symbol of unity and recognition," Mr Perrottet said.
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns said his party would not stand in the way of changing the date of Australia Day if a national conversation could be carried out without creating division.
"It is obviously a day for many First Nations people, which is quite confronting and distressing for them," he said.
"If there's a national conversation about changing the date, my hope is that that happens with the building of a consensus."
Australian Associated Press
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