The contrast between the tears before dawn, and the hope when the sun rose, was striking at Ballarat's third Survival Day dawn ceremony.
There were the blood-red ochre handprints on the kangaroo skin, representing the thousands of lives lost in massacres and the Frontier Wars, but also the optimism from young leaders emerging in their communities that momentum is building for a properly and honestly reconciled Australia.
The debate on changing the date for Australia Day will continue, but events like this dawn ceremony show "true reconciliation", co-organiser Nikki Foy said.
"Conversation is the best remedy - but it's also people need to start getting comfortable feeling uncomfortable having those conversations," she said.
"Non-Aboriginal people need to embrace that our history is everyone's history, and we need to start saying that yeah, our ancestors, our people who have gone, played a part in that.
"Walk together, not in front, not lead, but side-by-side together - today is about solidarity and coming together peacefully."
City of Ballarat councillor Belinda Coates, who is co-chair of the Koorie Engagement Action Group, said the push now was to bring more First Nations voices to the front of all conversations, and not just one day a year.
"I just don't think anyone could genuinely listen to that and not be moved and shift their perspective on today being a day of celebration," she said.
"It's really just so heartening to see an even bigger crowd than the first year - it shows really clearly there's growing momentum and support."
Among the young voices who impressed, reflecting on their own experiences, was Indya Hayes.
She said speaking in front of such a huge crowd - as well as the massive online audience - was a source of "strength".
"I think it is moving forward, I think it's about accepting the past and recognising Australia's history, and that's happening a lot more now than previous years," she said.
"People are a lot more vocal using social media, projecting their voices and using their platforms, and I think it's just about how we keep talking about those conversations, keep starting those conversations that might spark controversy.
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"They're conversations we need to have so we can move forward."
For her, the key is education.
"I think growing up, I was quite naive to the idea (of Australia Day), I didn't have as much education and knowledge as I have now, but for me now, it's a day of mourning, a day of recognition for our ancestors and those that came before us and fought so resiliently for us to be here," she said.
"It's a day for me to connect with my family and other allies, and the greater community where we can all come together, hold each other, and feel connected to our country."
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