In a move to encourage conversation, Cricket Australia has decided to drop the use of the phrase ‘Australia Day’ as three Big Bash teams will wear their Indigenous jerseys during their games around January 26.
The use of the Indigenous jerseys by the Sydney Thunder, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades plus the change of terminology from Cricket Australia are aimed to normalise conversations over the date’s history.
These positions and moves from Cricket Australia form part of the recommendations by the organisation’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee.
“Obviously it’s a bit of a challenge when you have matches being played on a day of mourning for a lot of people,” said Adam Cassidy, Cricket Australia’s diversity and inclusion manager.
Whilst Indigenous jerseys have been used in the Big Bash for several years now, this will be the first time they will be used over the January public holiday period.
The move is being championed by some of the Big Bash’s Indigenous players, particularly Brendan Doggett of the Sydney Thunder, who only five years ago found out about his mother’s family links to the Stolen Generations.
“If we wear the kit and hopefully even start one conversation then that is a win,” he said.
It’s a move that has gathered approval from significant members of the cricket community, including Australian cricket legend Ian Chappell.
“I haven’t been comfortable with Australia Day for a few years now, I don’t have a problem with it,” Chappell said on 3AW radio station regarding the move.
“Cricket Australia are putting it out there and people will discuss it, it will be divisive, but it puts it in the spotlight.”
However, not all responses have been supportive, including that of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“I think a bit more focus on cricket, and a bit less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he told radio station 4RO.
The Prime Minister later said in a press conference that the January 26, 1788 “wasn’t a particularly flash day” for those on the First Fleet either, and that the day each year is “all about acknowledging how far we’ve come”.
Chappell rebutted the Prime Minister’s position suggesting that removing politics from sport was “wishful thinking” and that politics and sport have historically been thrown together.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt also opposed the move, saying it was “disappointing” and that Cricket Australia had “missed an opportunity to unite Australians” on January 26.
“Reconciliation means walking together with respect for one another and differing views — not rejecting or enforcing one point of view,” Minister Wyatt said.
Despite push back from the Federal Government, Cricket Australia is forging ahead with their decision and have plans to implement other aspects of a broader initiative.
Additional aspects of the initiative led by Cricket Australia and supported by the Big Bash clubs include barefoot circles, Welcomes to Country and smoking ceremonies that will also take place before the start of some games.
By Aaron Bloch