Cricket Australia will stand firm on the decision to drop the term “Australia Day”, adamant they must embrace hard conversations despite criticism from Scott Morrison.
Three Big Bash clubs will wear Indigenous jerseys in the next week, while one game this weekend will have a barefoot circle, Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony.
The initiatives come from CA’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee (NATSICOC) , in a bid to normalise conversation about January 26’s history.
But the decision to remove the term Australia Day for marketing around their three BBL games on the day has not pleased the government.
Prime Minister Morrison on Thursday told CA to stick to cricket, while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton labelled it a “token attempt” and urged the sport to reverse the call.
“It’s not cricket. That would be my reaction,” Morrison told reporters in Central Queensland.
“Australian cricket fans would like Cricket Australia to focus a lot more on cricket and a lot less on politics.”
But CA has since confirmed they will not budge, acknowledging some blowback is inevitable but the message of support was more important.
“Not at all (will it change),” CA director and NATSICOC co-chair Mel Jones told AAP.
“Everyone is going to have an opinion on this as they do for a variety of different things.
“The recommendations put forward we know is a value-driven thing about making cricket as inclusive as we can.
“This isn’t a tokenistic let’s grab a headline.
“This is just our day-to-day workings. There are so many things we have put into place for a number of years now.”
CA have been clear they see it as their responsibility while operating under a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan to lead on key issues and begin conversation.
Jones believed the sport’s approach benefited all, keeping the sport on TV during the public holiday while welcoming the Indigenous community.
“It’s about how we can do something that makes people feel safe on the hardest day for Indigenous people in Australia,” Jones said.
She also insisted it was not meant to be seen as a divisive or political move, with the decision to refer to January 26 as Australia Day just one of several recommendations taken.
The change is also nothing new at some clubs, with the Sydney Thunder having long referred to the public holiday as the January long weekend.
Indigenous Thunder quick Brendan Doggett this week backed the initiatives, while Jones said the sport had the support of other Indigenous players.
“I think what we’ve tried to embrace is embracing the uncomfortable conversation,” Jones said.
“We’re happy to have those hard conversations, we know they’re not easy. But if we don’t have them, then nothing is going to change.
“Whether that’s a pride day or in terms of gender policy or whatever.
“We’re not afraid of change if it allows every person in Australia to enjoy the game.”