How our clients will continue their fight on Invasion Day

Last Updated on 25/01/2023 by National Justice Project

On January 26th each year, we choose to work on the public holiday instead of taking a day off. Instead of celebrating the colonisation of First Nations land, we show solidarity with our clients and all First Nations people by acting as legal observers at Invasion Day rallies. 

Instead of taking time off on Australia Day, we believe it is more appropriate to celebrate Mabo Day; a day commemorating the achievement of Mer Island man Eddie Koiki Mabo in overturning the legal ficton of terra nullius.

What does January 26 mean to First Nations people? 

For many First Nations people, January 26 is not a day of celebration, but instead a day of mourning, survival, and resistance. 

In 1938, First Nations activists marked a day of mourning on the 150th anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival. Protesters gathered outside Sydney’s Australia House to hold an inaugural Day of Mourning in remembrance of the removal of Aboriginal people from their lands and policies of segregation and assimilation. 

Since the first Day of Mourning, First Nations people have continued to rally against ongoing dispossession and discrimination. 

Protesters rally on Invasion Day in Sydney 2021.
Protesters rally on Invasion Day in Sydney 2021.

How we show solidarity with First Nations people on Invasion Day:

A legal observer working at an Invasion Day rally.
A National Justice Project legal observer attends an Invasion Day rally.

On the 26th, our staff with attend Invasion Day rallies as legal observers. The work of a legal observer is to monitor and record any violent interactions by police against protesters. These notes and recordings can be used as evidence in legal proceedings to help protesters defend their right to protest.

Often, protesters and our clients who attend rallies are subject to excessive policing, including fines, arrests, and the use of physical force. That’s why, during the rallies, our legal observers play an important role in protecting rights of protesters by: 

  • Mitigating the risk of violence against protesters
  • Holding the state accountable for use of force
  • Providing information about legal advice hotlines 
  • Expanding the political space and limiting the restriction of civil rights 

How our clients will mark Invasion Day

In Canberra, our clients the family of Ricky ‘Dougie’ Hampson Jnr., will be addressing protesters at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, calling for health justice for First Nations people. Their son, Dougie, died in 2021 after receiving inadequate healthcare, and they hope an upcoming coronial inquest will uncover systemic discrimination and hold the healthcare system to account for Dougie’s death.

In Sydney, our clients the family of David Dungay Jnr., will be speaking out against the continuing roadblocks they face in their fight for accountability for David’s death in Long Bay Prison in 2015. After years of trying to secure justice through the legal system, David’s mother, Leetona Dungay, has taken her demands to the United Nations (UN), seeking accountability for the brutal treatment of David. Tomorrow, she will address the Sydney rally, calling for justice after seven years of pain.

For many of our clients, January 26 will be a day to carry on their campaigns for truth, justice and accountability. And for us, January 26 will be a day to continue our work against discrimination.