Several hundred protesters have gathered on the lawns outside Parliament House in Canberra, met by a large police contingent.
Earlier as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other dignitaries gathered for an Australia Day citizenship and flag-raising ceremony, Indigenous people dressed in traditional garb conducted a ceremony at Garema Place in the city’s CBD before a minute’s silence was held ahead of the march for “the warriors before us”.
Stalls and speech tents have also been set up at the nearby Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which marks 50 years of activism this Australia Day.
Helicopters displaying the Australian flag and a low military flyover contrasted with a seas of shirts displaying the Aboriginal flag and statements of Indigenous sovereignty.
Speaking after the citizenship ceremony, federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said it was important to recognise Australia’s history went back at least 60,000 years.
“Which is why one of my priorities will be to recognise First Nations people in Australia’s constitution,” he told reporters.
“We should be very proud that we are home to the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet.”
In Melbourne, statues of Captain James Cook were smeared with red paint.
A group claiming empathy for the protest action said Captain Cook had begun an era of “racism and misogynist violence”.
“We are among the many thousands of voices calling for truth telling about the Frontier Wars so that the work of healing can begin. We cannot change the past but we can change which parts of our shared history we celebrate. We can and will change our future.”
Governor-General David Hurley will say in his televised Australia Day address on Wednesday night that progress was being made to involve Indigenous people in decision-making processes.
“We reflect on our history — its tragedies and triumphs, and the opportunities and potential our history points to,” he says.
“We respect each other – our diversity is a strength.
“And we celebrate — because we are a good hearted people, in a country of many possibilities.”
Invasion Day rallies are also underway in Sydney and Brisbane.