India will celebrate its 72nd Republic Day this year on January 26. Meanwhile, a few oceans away, Australia will also mark a day of national significance, though it is intensely debated.
Australia Day is at the heart of a controversial holiday – a holiday that polarized Australians before January 26 became the day for these celebrations. Protests are a hallmark part of the day in Australia and this time sporting bodies like Cricket Australia have taken a stand not to validate the origins of the holiday and remove the name of match promotions.
Here’s a quick look at the history of the holiday and why it’s caught in the midst of a heated socio-political debate.
Australia Day is Australia’s official national day and is celebrated annually on January 26 to commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney in 1788. Indigenous Australians call this day “Invasion Day” and there is growing support for changing the date to one that can be celebrated by all Australians. – Getty Images
It is a public holiday with a colonial past. On January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the first fleet of 11 British ships, arrived at Sydney Cove, marking the birth of a new British colony.
His constant observation on January 26 is a recent development, dating back to 1994. (More details on the evolution of the holidays here)
Who is protesting today and why?
The formation of the Australian colony also meant the invasion of indigenous lands and peoples and it is on this aspect of the day that the protests against this holiday celebrated on January 26 are based.
Day of invasion, day of survival, day of mourning / sorrow – several phrases have been coined to force recognition of the historical experiences of Indigenous and Indigenous communities during and after colonization. The protests also saw calls against injustice and racial inequalities.
What do the protesters want?
Much of the criticism that Australia Day has invited is not its ideal intention to be a national holiday rather than the day it was designated for that purpose. A hashtag – #ChangeTheDate – returns to circulation around this time each year, calling for an alternate day to commemorate the holiday – one that does not hurt the feelings of Indigenous communities in Australia.
Opinion polls conducted in the country suggest that there is a greater demand among the younger population to change the date of the holiday, indicating a generational split of opinion over its historical significance. According to BBC, alternative dates suggested over the years include May 27 (marking the day in 1967 when Indigenous peoples were granted constitutional rights), January 1 (when the Australian Constitution came into force in 1901), or even May 8. – a play on the word ‘mate’.
However, the date debate is only a small part of a larger discussion of Australia’s relationship to its colonial past and the recognition of the historic hardships of its indigenous communities and culture.
Where does Cricket Australia come into play?
Cricket Australia has decided to drop the term “Australia Day” from promotions for Big Bash League matches scheduled on the public holiday. Fixtures must now be promoted like the Jan. 26 matches.
Additionally, three Big Bash clubs – The Sydney Thunder, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades – will wear Indigenous jerseys, while the Melbourne franchises have decided to continue to use “ Australia Day ” in their branding.
Cricket Australia’s move comes as an attempt to normalize conversations about the controversial history of the date. – Getty Images
Cricket Australia’s move comes as an attempt to normalize conversations about the controversial history of the date. A barefoot circle, welcome to the country ceremony and smoking ceremony will also precede the day’s fixtures, as recommended by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee (NATSICAC).
The move drew criticism from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who called on Cricket Australia to “focus on cricket”.
“I think a little more focus on cricket and a little less politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he told Australian radio station 4RO.
Among the voices supporting the board’s decision is NATSICAC co-chair and former Australian player, Mel Jones.
“It’s recognition that this is a really hurtful day for many,” Jones told ABC. “We have five native players who play these games and a lot of native fans who come to cricket, we just want to make this space as safe and inclusive as possible.”
“We don’t have a choice to be a role model in sports these days, but you have a choice to be a good or a bad one,” she added.
The Prime Minister explained what he thinks the day must mean for the Australian community.
“Australia Day is about recognizing how far we have come,” he said. “When those 12 ships arrived in Sydney all those years ago, it was not a particularly lightning day for the people on those ships either. What this day demonstrates is how far we have come as a country and I think that is why it is important to mark it in this way.
His comments on people who were in the British fleet were also criticized, from cricketers Dan Christian and Usman Khwaja to Olympian Cathy Freeman, among others.
@ScottMorrisonMP read in the room Mr. Prime Minister. @CricketAus are leading the way because your government will not. There will be millions of children watching our @BBL games on January 26, and they will see us take a knee against racism and promote inclusion for all. Take note.
– Dan Christian (@ danchristian54) January 22, 2021
I think for ScoMo to say to CA “a little more cricket focus and a little less politics” is pretty trivial. CA could say the same thing vice versa but what will that solve. Someone needs to take action to determine what works for us as a nation. Well said mate https://t.co/KjwK5VY1mE
– Usman Khawaja (@Uz_Khawaja) January 22, 2021
You cannot compare the experiences of these 12 ships that arrived for the first time
this country to what their arrival has meant to all generations of First Nations people in Australia!
– Cathy Freeman (@CathyFreeman) January 22, 2021
Jason Gillespie, the only Australian native cricketer to play for the National Test Team, also supported his friends and colleagues at Cricket Australia by saying: “I am proud that CA is leading the way on this important conversation.
National cricketer Megan Schutt was also quick to condemn Prime Minister Morrison’s comments.
My word is embarrassing … as well as callous and divisive maybe you should focus more on politics and less on cricket? https://t.co/weoHX5D0kV
– Megan Schutt (@megan_schutt) January 21, 2021
Courting controversy – Margaret Court returns to public attention
At the Australian Open, Margaret Court is back on the path to conversation, not so much for her impressive accomplishments in sport as for her controversial remarks on the LGBTQIA + community.
Australian media report that controversial former tennis champion Margaret Court will receive the country’s first award in Australia’s Day honors list, and the apparent move is already under fire.
The 78-year-old’s appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia was due to be revealed on Monday evening, but it was leaked on social media. The award recognizes “Distinguished Court Service in Tennis” as the winner of a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles and mentor for young athletes. But Court’s achievements in tennis have more recently been overshadowed by his views on homosexuality, conversion therapy, same-sex marriage, and transgender people.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has said he does not support the court receiving this honor.
“I don’t believe she has views that dovetail with the vast majority of people across our country who see people, especially from the LGBTQ community, as equal and deserving of dignity, respect and safety,” said he declared.
“Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing there was only one couple there, but these leading couples took young people to parties, ”Court said. “And what you get at the top is often what you will get from this sport,” Court told Vision Christian Radio in 2017.
Court, a Pentecostal pastor who runs the Victory Life Center Church in Perth, Western Australia, said she would not change her views. “All my life I’ve had these opinions and just said what the Bible says,” she said.
“Because we’re living in a season … even LGBT people and schools – it’s from the devil, it’s not from God,” she told her congregation in 2019.
“I should always be able to express my point of view biblically, by being a pastor and helping people with marriages and family. And I will never change those views, ”she added.
Last year, 2020, Court was honored for the 50th anniversary of the end of a Grand Slam calendar year – winning all four majors in 1970. But former tennis stars, including Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and current player Andy Murray all drove calls for Court’s name to be removed from Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne Park because of his opinions.
McEnroe on court in 2020: “Serena, do me a favor, get two more Grand Slams this year and hit 25 so we can leave Margaret and her offensive views in the past in their place.”
(With AP inputs)