Three Big Bash clubs will wear Indigenous jerseys as Cricket Australia drops the term “Australia Day” from promotions in a bid to normalise conversations over the date’s history, but the Prime Minister is unhappy with the move.
The Sydney Thunder, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades will all wear their special strips in matches on January 23, 25 and 26.
A barefoot circle, Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony will also take place before some games, with CA leading the initiative backed by the clubs.
The moves form part of several recommendations by the sport’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee, with three games to be played on January 26.
“They thought it was pretty important to not remove cultural elements we have celebrated all season on a day like that,” Cricket Australia’s diversity & inclusion manager Adam Cassidy told AAP.
“Obviously it’s a bit of a challenge when you have matches being played on a day of mourning for a lot of people.”
However, the decision to stop referencing “Australia Day” has rather predictably drawn the ire of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Speaking on radio station 4RO while touring Queensland, Morrison labelled the move “pretty ordinary”.
“I think a bit more focus on cricket, a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he said.
“I think that’s pretty ordinary – that’s what they’re putting on their press releases – that would be my view.”
This, of course, is coming from the same Prime Minister who had no problem focusing on the cricket during last summer’s bushfires.
“Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer for,” he tweeted in late November, 2019, before the start of the Australia versus Pakistan Test series.
He also said just three days ago that it wasn’t his place to “provide lectures to anybody”, although apparently that doesn’t apply to this current situation.
CA are well aware the issue is a sensitive one and are desperate for it not to prove divisive, but want to encourage talk about the issue.
“When you are a business operating under a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan, it does come with responsibility and accountability to lead on key reconciliation issues,” Cassidy said.
“In an ideal world what we’re trying to do is create a safe and inclusive environment for everybody.”
Indigenous jerseys have been worn across different sports for some time, but it is the first time they will be used over the Australia Day period.
The move has been firmly approved by the game’s players, with Sydney Thunder’s Brendan Doggett championing the cause through his own Indigenous history.
“I hate conflict. So I am of the opinion if we can all merge forward together that’s ideal,” Doggett said.
“The way we’re going to do that is by starting conversations and talking about it and acknowledging the history of what’s happened.
“If we wear the kit and hopefully even start one conversation then that is a win.”
The Thunder have long referred to the public holiday as the January long weekend and have been a leader in multicultural initiatives through the Thunder Cup.
Doggett meanwhile has grown increasingly aware of his Indigenous history in recent years, after only discovering his mother’s family’s links to the stolen generation around five years ago.
That too has changed his perspective on the day, which he says is now far different to when he was a carpenter in Queensland.
And it’s with that perspective he believes it is possible to become more united, believing wearing the Indigenous jerseys can help prompt that.
“For me now it’s more of a day to just recognise and acknowledge the history and everything that has happened. And do it respectfully.
“It makes me want to make sure that everyone’s moving forward together.
“It’s a pretty dark past but if we can move forward, together and united then in my opinion that’s the best result.”