By John Stapleton. Photography by John Napper and Janaya Markwell.
Australia has just witnessed the largest demonstration in its history.
Many people had streams of tears flowing down their faces. The emotion flowing through the entire crowd was overwhelming.
Kath, 53, a delivery truck driver who lost her job due to the vaccine mandates, drove nearly 4000 kilometres from Darwin to be part of today’s rally.
“We’ve been protesting in Darwin for months, the group is called Free in the NT,” she said. “It’s for the children, basically. I am a new grandmother. I don’t want the kids to grow up in this horrible world.
“We are standing up for human rights. And for choice. I’ve been made an alien in my own country. I can’t work.
“Today was great. We are staying. Whatever it takes to change this rotten system. I’ve got nothing else to go back to; no job, no house. I was living in a Salvation Hostel before I came here.
“I just knew I had to come and stand up.”
Charles, 59, from Gerringong, a teacher suspended without pay under the vaccine mandate regime, worked as a cameraman the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the day parliament house opened, and can be clearly seen in historic footage as he films the Queen.
“I was there at the opening, and now I’m trying to close it down. It was great to see so many familiar faces as well as to meet so many new ones. The people are speaking with their feet against government overreach!!
“We the people are rewriting Australian history.”
Billy Arnold, 42, from Wollongong was one of the many people travelled from all over Australia to attend today’s extraordinary events.
And like so many others, his life has been entirely disrupted by Covid restrictions and mandates.
“It’s the single largest collective event in Australian history of people coming together,” he said. “Regardless of whether you are vaxxed or unvaxxed, there is not a single judgement from anyone. Everybody is equal no matter what demographic you are from.
“I arrived at Commonwealth Park, one kilometre from Parliament House, at 9am. I started filming while rollerblading on the main road as protestors arrived. Within one hour, of the top of my head I would say there was easily half a million people there.
“As the protest started to make its way from the park to Parliament House people were 20 wide on each side of the road and one kilometre long at least by the time they reached the House. And for two hours they were still making their way in droves.
“Never ever have I felt so alive and so welcomed by complete strangers. Words could not explain how I feel, except for the fact that everybody made comments about how great my smile was as I passed them, because it was from ear to ear the whole time.”
Claire, 64, a finance broker from New South Wales, said: “I came because I wanted to take a stance for my grandchildren’s right to choose their futures. I was actually crying. I was extremely moved. I couldn’t believe how many people came together in one body for one common cause; to unite Australia for all our freedoms.”
Louise, 57, an admin assistant from NSW, said: “I felt overwhelming pride to be taking part in an activity that can’t be ignored by those in power. Without action nothing changes. Every person here today was doing their part in making a difference to stopping mandatory vaccinations. I came here for the opportunity to do something, rather than just watching it on the alternative news platforms. Just the opportunity to participate was motivation to get here.”
Mother of five Elizabeth, 45, from NSW, said: “It is very personal for me. We need no politicians. We need some way of looking and solving issues from a new perspective who are dedicated members of society and have the ability to interact with other countries amicably to work together for our children for a better future. I felt compelled to come here. I am very moved. This is for our children’s future. That’s all there is to it.”
Jim, 50, a chef from Canberra: “I say to the people of Australia. The people here are mothers, fathers, grandparents, doctors, lawyers, truck drivers and people from all walks of life. We are here with a sense of community, with only one aim: to make the government legislate against vaccine mandates and end lockdowns so that the people of Australia can go about their lives without the current division and hatred.”
Julianne, 55, a retired police officer from Gladstone in Queensland, said: “I’m not able to articulate. I was just called to be here. Things reveal themselves after the fact. It’s a spiritual thing. I feel like I am in the right place at the right time. My three adult daughters are watching me, and they are proud of me.”
Marcus, 52, a builder from Sydney, said: “It was heart warming and heart breaking. Is this the new Australia Day? That’s what it felt like.”
Antony Pond, 44, an IT engineer from NSW, said: “Today was the beginning of the beginning of the creation of a new democratic Constitution, written by the people for the people. The atmosphere was compassionate, respectful and joyful.”