Ashleigh Gardner: All-rounder criticises Cricket Australia’s decision to play on Australia Day

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Ashleigh Gardner has criticised Cricket Australia’s decision to play a T20 match against Pakistan on 26 January, which marks Australia Day.

The all-rounder, who is from the indigenous Muruwari people, said the scheduling “doesn’t sit well” with her or the people she is representing.

Australia Day is controversial because it’s held on a date marking British colonisation.

Gardner said it was a day of “hurt” and “mourning”.

Australia’s national day of celebration marks the date the first British fleet landed in Sydney 235 years ago.

The occasion has drawn criticism in some areas for the hurt it causes to indigenous people.

“As a proud Muruwari woman and reflecting on what Jan 26 means to me and my people, it is a day of hurt and a day of mourning,” Gardner, 25, wrote on social media.

“Unfortunately, this year the Australian women’s cricket team has been scheduled to play a game on the 26th Jan, which certainly doesn’t sit well with me as an individual but also all the people I’m representing.”

The current top-ranked T20 all-rounder in the world added: “For those who don’t have a good understanding of what that day means, it was the beginning of genocide, massacres and dispossession.

“When I take the field for this game, I will certainly be reflecting and thinking about all of my ancestors and people’s lives who changed from this day.”

Cricket Australia says it “understands and acknowledges” Gardner’s position and adds the match will provide an “opportunity to continue our ongoing education journey with the indigenous community”.

The governing body consulted with an indigenous advisory committee which approved the decision to play the fixture – the second in a three-match series – on the date.

The Australian team will perform a traditional smoking ceremony before the match and walk around local mountain Kunanyi to learn about the community.

They will also wear an indigenous kit and will learn about the impact of 26 January on indigenous people.

In 2021, Cricket Australia dropped all references to ‘Australia Day’ for Big Bash matches played on 26 January.

“Cricket Australia acknowledges 26 January is a day that has multiple meanings and evokes mixed feelings in communities across our richly diverse nation,” Cricket Australia said.

“We respectfully acknowledge it is a challenging day for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and for some people the day is regarded as a day of mourning.

“Cricket Australia understands and acknowledges Ash’s position and appreciates her leadership and the contributions of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the game of cricket.

“We will use the T20 International scheduled for 26 January as an opportunity to continue our ongoing education journey with First Nations people.”

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