About this record
This record is a photograph of a protest from 1988. It was created by the Australian Overseas Information Service, a federal government organisation that created a vast collection of photographs of Australian life between 1940 and 1996.
The photograph shows an Indigenous protest at the International Tall Ships Race from Hobart to Sydney. The race, featuring tall ships from 30 countries, was organised as part of Australia’s bicentenary celebrations. The celebrations commemorated 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, NSW on 26th January.
With national and international attention focused on bicentenary events, many activists took the opportunity to boycott government celebrations and heighten international awareness of Indigenous issues.
The photograph shows three people on board a moored yacht with a sail that features an illustration of three Indigenous Australians linked together with neck chains. The graphic also shows a ball and chain, and a rifle. The sail’s background colours of red, yellow and black are the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag, which can also be seen flying on the right of the photograph.
The sail depicts an historical example of oppression suffered by Indigenous people at the hands of British settlers. During the colonial period, neck chains were used to restrain and punish convicts, police suspects and Indigenous people. Neck chains were still being used on Indigenous people more than a century after their general use had ceased.
Protests like the one pictured raised the question of whether the public should celebrate 200 years of white presence in Australia. Other protests—which included a peaceful march of 100,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Sydney—also demanded that Australians reflect on the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and ways for righting wrongs.
Australia Day remains a contested day on our national calendar. For many Indigenous people the day is named 'Invasion Day' or 'Survival Day'.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.