Invasion Day Australia
Aboriginal protesters hold signs as they demonstrate outside the Victorian State Parliament on Australia Day in Melbourne AAP/Alex Murray/via REUTERS

Australia's deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has lashed out at Australia Day protesters, telling them to "crawl under a rock and hide". His comments come in response to country-wide Invasion Day protests to change the date of national day.

"[I'm] just sick of these people who... want to make us feel guilty about it," Joyce told Sydney radio station 2GB. "They don't like Christmas, they don't like Australia Day, they're just miserable gutted people, and I wish they'd crawl under a rock and hide for a little bit. This is Australia Day, and if you don't like it, I don't know mate, go to work. Do something else."

National day is celebrated on 26 January to mark the arrival of the first British convict fleet in 1788. However, protesters do not feel it worth celebrating and argue that it marks the start of the dispossession of Indigenous people. They have been calling it "Invasion Day" instead. Former Howard and Abbott government minister Ian MacFarlane is one of the key political figures who are in support of changing the date of Australia Day.

"I had a bit of a thought about what it would've been like if we were in the United Kingdom and I was being asked to celebrate on the day the Vikings raped and pillaged Arrochar, my father's homeland; or the day my mother's forebears were cut in half by English grapeshot at Culloden and then hunted down with their families and murdered," he said.

The West Australian city of Fremantle has decided to cancel Australia Day celebrations and will instead hold a "culturally inclusive" event on 28 January. "What we're doing is coming up with something that is actually more Australian," the city's Mayor Brad Pettit told ABC.