Cricket Australia stands firm on 'Australia Day' decision despite PM's criticism

Cricket Australia (CA) is standing its ground in not referring to January 26 as “Australia Day” as part of its Big Bash League (BBL) promotions, after consultation with its Indigenous advisory committee.

CA has been criticised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison for opting to drop the term as part of its effort to normalise conversations over the date’s history, while three BBL clubs will wear Indigenous-inspired uniforms in matches on January 23, 25 and 26.

The co-chair of CA’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee, Mel Jones, said she supported the decision not to make reference to “Australia Day”.

“It’s recognition that it’s a really hurtful day for many,” Ms Jones said.

“We’ve got five Indigenous players playing those games and a lot of Indigenous fans that come to the cricket, we just want to make this space as safe and inclusive as possible.”

Ms Jones, a retired Australian women’s Test and ODI player, said CA would be prepared to discuss its decision with Mr Morrison.

“Cricket Australia is very comfortable with where it’s at,” she said.

“It’s come from a cricket decision space, [we’re] more than happy to have a conversation with the Prime Minister, more just so he can see where we’re coming from.

“It opens up these conversations, otherwise there’s no change at all. Some people aren’t open to change, but I think a change where people are happy on this day and feel safe, I think that’s a good space to get into.

“We don’t get a choice whether to be a role model in sports these days, but you do get the choice to be a good one or a bad one.”Mr Morrison described CA’s decision as “pretty ordinary”.

“Cricket fans would like to see Cricket Australia focus a lot more on cricket and a lot less on politics,” he said.

But Jones said sport had never been separated from politics.

“Seriously, sport has been involved in politics from year dot in a variety of different fronts, not just in Australia but right around the globe,” she said.

“Hopefully, it sends a message just to be kind to people, that we are listening more, and that’s the kind of Australia we want to get to isn’t it?”

BBL player support ‘helping that conversation’

BBL players welcomed the move from CA, saying they hoped it would promote discussion about equality.

“Some of the injustices in society these days aren’t right and the more we can educate and learn about it the better,” Perth Scorchers bowler Andrew Tye said.

Tye said cricketers were doing their bit to make a difference.

“I’m all for equality, and if that’s their view on helping that conversation, helping that topic along, well, then I’m all for it,” he said.

“I daresay the majority of the people, as players, will be for making society a better place.

Former Test batter Peter Handscomb, who had been captaining Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL this season, said he agreed with CA’s stance.

The Scorchers will be one of the teams wearing the Indigenous-inspired uniforms, while Welcome to Country and barefoot circle ceremonies will be among some of the other initiatives used before some matches.

“This isn’t a tokenistic act – this is just one part, we want to incorporate Indigenous language more into daily conversation, so we talk about a Yorta Yorta man or Kulin nation, people know the area you’re talking about,” Jones said.

It is not the first time Mr Morrison has voiced his opinion regarding Australia’s sporting codes.

He successfully lobbied the NRL to backflip on decision to not play the national anthem during the men’s State of Origin series.

CA, however, is not budging.

“Cricket is such an integral part of Australia way back to 1868 when the first Indigenous team toured England, so we want to be respectful and open our doors to a group that we probably had them closed to for too long,” Jones said.

“We are big enough to say we haven’t always got it right, but we are ready to have those hard conversations and ready to listen more.”

What do you think of the PM’s comments? Should ‘sport and state’ be separated?

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