Transcript: Day of Mourning, 1988 Bicentenary Protest March

Video length: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

Narrator: On January 26th 1988, the 200th year anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia was celebrated with much pomp and ceremony. But in Sydney more than 40,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians from all around the country gathered to express a different perspective on the European colonization of Australia.

The march through Sydney to Hyde Park was one of the largest demonstrations the country had ever seen. “White Australia has a black history” was the message, pointing to the neglect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia Day celebrations. Aboriginal activist Gary Foley praised the cross-cultural harmony of the marchers, describing it as an example of what Australia could and should be like.

Soundup of Gary Foley speech to crowd: What we’re saying here today and what’s very clear, and what will be very clear to Bob Hawke and to people all over the world, when they see their television screens tonight and tomorrow, is that we have survived!

Narrator: The 1988 march subsequently became known as the “Day of Mourning” and served to bring attention to Australia's human rights record. It aimed to educate the public about the poor conditions of Aboriginal health, education and welfare, of the high imprisonment rates and the number of deaths in custody suffered by Indigenous Australians. People received this message not only in Australia, but all around the world.

Soundup of British man: Australia must turn her shame in to pride.

Narrator: On this same date, thousands of kilometres away, Burnum Burnum planted the Aboriginal flag on the white cliffs of Dover and made his famous declaration.

Soundup of Burnum Burnum Declaration: I Burnum Burnum, a noble man of ancient Australia, do hereby take possession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. In claiming this colonial outpost, we wish you natives no harm but we’re here to bring you good manners, refinement and an opportunity for a ‘Koompartoo’, or a fresh start.

Narrator: The events on January 26th 1988 changed the nation forever. It opened public and international debate on concepts of Australian history and brought Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices evermore in to the national dialogue and a step towards self-determination for Australia’s first peoples.