Ash Gardner has Australian women’s team backing over January 26

Indigenous player Ashleigh Gardner has drawn support from teammates over the Australia Day fixture.

Indigenous player Ashleigh Gardner has drawn support from teammates over the Australia Day fixture. Photo: AAP

Ashleigh Gardner’s teammates have declared their support for her January 26 stance, as one of Cricket Australia’s chief Indigenous advisers recommended games played on the date should take a similar approach to football matches on Anzac Day.

Gardner created headlines on Sunday when she criticised the decision by Cricket Australia to schedule a match on Thursday, when the Australia women will face Pakistan in Hobart.

Muruwari woman Gardner will play, but made clear the schedule did not sit well with her, coming on what is considered by many Indigenous Australians “a day of hurt and a day of mourning”.

AAP has been told the match has been a concern for several players since September, with discussions over how to approach it.

Initially scheduled for Canberra on January 27, the match was moved to Hobart and a day earlier to avoid a potential BBL venue clash when South Africa abandoned its men’s ODI series, which had included a scheduled game in the southern city.

Until that point, it had been a possibility there would be no major cricket fixture on January 26 in Australia for the first time in 20 years.

In a move driven by players, the team will wear an Indigenous jersey, wristbands and socks with Indigenous colours. There will be a smoking ceremony before the match.

“It’s something that we can’t control in terms of the scheduling and playing on that day,” captain Meg Lanning said.

“But something we would like to do is acknowledge the sadness and grief that day brings for First Nations people.

“We’re going to try to use the opportunity we have to educate ourselves and try to create a better understanding of what it means and their culture.

“It’s a really united front in the group and we all support Ash and her feelings around the day.”

The subject of January 26 has been a recent challenge for CA. The governing body receives regular input from its Indigenous advisory committee.

The organisation dropped the term ‘Australia Day’ two years ago, a decision met with criticism by then prime minister Scott Morrison.

Indigenous elements will become part of all BBL uniforms from next season, while this summer’s men’s and women’s T20 World Cup jerseys bore First Nations designs.

The advisory committee’s co-chairman and former CEO of Reconciliation Australia Justin Mohamed told AAP he understood a busy schedule meant games would be played on January 26, and stressed his personal view was that the tone of the event was crucial.

“I can only reflect on Anzac Day and the (AFL) fixture with Collingwood and Essendon. The respect they show to Anzac Day only enhances and educates,” Mohamed said.

“People who go to that game know this is a significant time, and there have been losses.

“(January 26) is a day of mourning, but also there is a day of survival. Where Aboriginal culture and language and history have survived all this.

“The 26th will always be the 26th. Even if we change the date to celebrate Australia Day on, the 26th is a date all Australians should know and shouldn’t be lost.”

Mr Mohamed said the team had been proactive in their response to the scheduling.

“Straight away they said, ‘This day has a strong significance for First Nations people, we need to learn more about this’,” he said.


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