'Scott Morrison has said 26 January 1788 was “pretty miserable” for his ancestor, in a speech defending the celebration of Australia Day, while tens of thousands of people joined Invasion Day marches around the country calling for the public holiday to be abolished.
Morrison told a citizenship ceremony in Canberra that his fifth great grandfather, William Roberts, arrived with the first fleet in a group that was “wretched, naked, filthy, dirty, lousy, and many of them utterly unable to stand, or even to stir hand or foot”.
Six hundred kilometres away, in Melbourne, his comments were echoed to a crowd of more than 40,000 people who congregated on Spring Street outside Parliament House before the Invasion Day march.
“Those poor people were in chains, they were suffering we pitied them,” a speaker said. “What are you defending?”
The rally in Melbourne followed a dawn service at the memorial marking the burial site of 38 Aboriginal people from across Victoria, who represented those killed in the frontier wars.
“If this country has any conscience, it will start a healing process that starts with truth-telling,” the former Greens MP Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, told the rally.'
Read more: Huge crowds attend Invasion Day marches across Australia's capital cities
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