Australia Day has been commemorated and celebrated around the country, with more than 12,000 new citizens welcomed.

Protest events have been largely peaceful; however, several people have been arrested in central Sydney and two people who appeared to be counter-protesters were briefly detained in Melbourne.

The day began with the WugulOra ceremony in Sydney, complete with traditional Indigenous dances and a smoking ceremony.

In a Welcome to Country, Yvonne Weldon, chairperson of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, called for Australia to own its past.

“Let us all acknowledge and remember the many sacrifices of my people, the sacrifices then and the sacrifices now,” she said.

Ms Weldon also called for unity “regardless of what date or day you call it”.

The sails of the Sydney Opera House are lit up at dawn with an artwork by NSW Indigenous artist Frances Belle-Parker.(AAP: Dean Lewis)

At the national flag-raising and citizenship ceremony in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said whatever their beginnings and circumstances, “Australians have always demonstrated our ability to overcome”.

“Today on Australia Day, we reflect on that journey. The price that has been made for our freedom. The lessons of our history. And the privilege of being able to call ourselves Australians. We do it on this day when the course of this land changed forever,” he said.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said while it was important to commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet, it was “a day when we need to acknowledge that it is a very difficult day for First Nations people”.

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Highlights from the Australia Day citizenship ceremony in Canberra

Thousands of new citizens welcomed

Citizenship ceremonies have been held across the country today, with over 12,000 people from over 130 nations becoming Australian citizens.

Anne Sharon Vickerstaff was one of more than 60 people who received her citizenship in Darwin.

The UK national said receiving her citizenship was an emotional experience after living in Australia for around 25 years.

Anne Sharon Vickerstaff said she felt emotional now that she can call herself an Australian after receiving her citizenship.(ABC News: Sowaibah Hanifie)

“I actually feel like I belong here now after so many years of being a pom living here I’m actually an Australian,” Ms Vickerstaff said.

In Alice Springs, 43 new citizens were welcomed, including Northern Territory Police Auxiliary Officer, Stephen Njeru Njuki, who emigrated from Kenya six years ago.

“It’s been a very long time waiting for citizenship and I feel so happy today,” he said.

“I really love helping people and it makes me happy everyday — to see I’m helping people.” 

Among those granted citizenship was Northern Territory Police auxiliary officer Stephen Njeru Njuki. His two year old son, Jamie Njuki, was born in Alice Springs.(ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

In Western Australia, hundreds of people received their citizenship, including 41-year-old Rakesh Gorasia and his wife Anita, 38 at a ceremony in Wanneroo, north of Perth.

Mr Gorasia said officially becoming an Australian had been five years in the making.

“We came here on holiday, we just fell in love with it … took almost two years to convince [Anita], had to use the kids’ future to get her here, and she eventually agreed to it and we’re here today,” he said.

“It feels awesome, it feels like we now belong here,” Ms Gorasia said.

Rakesh (r) and Anita Gorasia and their young daughters were among hundreds of West Australians awarded citizenship.(ABC News: Herlyn Kaur)

Events, protests in capital cities, regional Australia

Despite a pared back list of events today due to COVID-19 restrictions, gatherings of protest and celebration were held across Australia.

In Sydney, more than 2,000 people gathered in The Domain for a peaceful protest, despite health orders limiting gatherings to 500.

A planned march was cancelled after police reached an agreement with organisers.

Four people were later arrested when scuffles broke out after the rally.

The confrontation happened when some of the crowd moved to nearby Hyde Park, where police officers warned people they were breaching public health orders designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Police said the people arrested were not part of the organised protest.

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Crowds gather ahead of Invasion Day rally in Sydney

Temperatures across the city soared today, with thousands of people flocking to Sydney’s beaches to try to keep cool in the sweltering conditions.

Meanwhile, in Sydney’s western suburbs, some opted for a more old-fashioned approach to cooling off as Austral reached 41 degrees Celsius.

People did their best to keep cool amid the scorching conditions across Sydney.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Members of the Stolen Generations were among thousands of people attending an Invasion Day rally outside the Victorian Parliament in Melbourne.

COVID marshals attempted to separate the crowd into groups of 100 as the march made its way through the CBD.

Uncle Bill Nicholson addressed the crowd, calling for greater recognition of Australia’s Indigenous history.

“We want you to listen to our voice, and that is why I believe we are here today with so much support, wanting our voice to be heard and listened to and respected,” he said.


Events have also been held outside the Victorian capital.

In western Victoria, Ballarat’s Koorie Engagement Action Group (KEAG) held its second Survival Day Dawn Service.

The service was live-streamed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and members of KEAG said they hoped the online access would encourage the broader community to be educated about the significance of the date.

Dozens of people gathered and hundreds watched online as the service unfolded beside Lake Wendouree.(ABC News: Sarah Jane Bell)

In Brisbane, thousands took part in a march through the CBD, with a large crowd gathered at Queen’s Park.

The march headed through Brisbane’s CBD and finished in South Brisbane at Musgrave park.

Speakers at the march called for Australia Day to be abolished.

Queensland police said about 8,000 protesters gathered in the CBD.

No arrests were made and there were no major disruptions to traffic, with police describing the crowd as “well behaved”.

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attended an award ceremony in Townsville at the Jezzine Barracks.

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Thousands of people marched at Brisbane’s Invasion day rally

In Darwin, overcast skies and a slight drizzle were not enough to deter people from OZ Run, the biggest running event in the Northern Territory.

After a Welcome to Country, the free event kicked off at 7:00am at the Darwin Convention Centre — with staggered starts to help with physically distancing.

People at the Darwin Convention Centre for Australia Day 2021.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Many chose to dress up in Australian colours, with some carrying flags which they waved enthusiastically as they crossed the starting line.

Hundreds of people gathered for the Mourning in the Morning smoking ceremony at Adelaide’s Botanic Park this morning.


Rosemary Wanganeen addressed the crowd, encouraging non-Indigenous Australians to think about and connect with their ancestors.

“I need to believe that they’ll go away thinking about that, and not be afraid of that, because it feels like there’s fears around acknowledging and honouring their ancestry, thinking more about what happened to us,” she said.

“That’s important, but the other equation of that is non-Aboriginal people having the same rights.”

Thousands of masked protesters attended a Survival Day rally in Adelaide.(ABC News: Ben Pettitt)

Hundreds of protesters gathered on the Parliament House lawns in Hobart for an Invasion Day rally.

Rally organisers said the date is offensive to the Aboriginal community, and want it changed to a more inclusive date.

Hundreds of people gathered at an Invasion Day rally in Hobart.(ABC News: Edith Bevin)

The annual protest usually includes a march through the city centre, but the state’s COVID-19 restrictions forced its cancellation this year.

Meanwhile, in Tasmania’s north-west, about 30 small planes from around Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland have flown into a privately owned airstrip at the foot of Mount Roland.

The small planes have flown into the area for Australia Day for more than a decade.

Dozens of planes from around the country flew into Tasmania’s north-west for Australia Day.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

In Canberra, about 1,000 people staged an Invasion Day protest.

The crowd chanted and banging drums as they marched from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy to the forecourt of Parliament House.

Crowds gathered outside of Parliament House in Canberra as part of an Invasion Day protest.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Thousands of people have turned out in Perth for an Invasion Day rally.

The rally began in Forrest Place and will move through the city towards Langley Park on the Swan River.

Bibbulman Yorga woman Corina Abraham-Howard has organised change-the-date rallies in the city for the past four years and said it would be a sign of respect and solidarity with First Nations people.

“It’s about joining together and walking with us,” she said.

“I say 1788 was the beginning of the Australian holocaust, because that’s what happened here.”

The Perth Invasion Day rally also attracted thousands of people.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Before the rally began, she was hoping the turnout would be greater than previous years because of the increased momentum brought by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We stand with everyone, no matter what colour or cultural background you come from,” she said.

She urged those attending the rally to be as safe as possible.

“I’ve got marshals, we’ve got volunteers supporting,” she said.

“I just ask for peace and respect.”

A smoking ceremony was held at Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney on Monday night.(AAP: Paul Braven)