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Don't change the date, change the attitude



January 26 is one day out of 365. But no other date conjures up so much passionate debate amidst a cacophony of divided views. Each year there is the predictable commentary about Australia Day. 

The Scorchers celebrate winning the Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and the Perth Scorchers at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on January 23, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Cricket Australia’s decision to not mention Australia Day for its Big Bash League clash, and instead use only the words January 26 is a googly (making us all curious).

No, it’s not the GOAT Nathan Lyon, it’s a brand new spinner called ‘taking-a-stand’. The crowd is irritated at first by this new type of bowler. ‘What’s this going to achieve!’ they groan. But hey! Hitting the stumps is what cricket is all about, right?

So, let’s take a drinks break and try to unpack this innings to see what strategy is being used. CA, with their National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee, is showing substantial leadership in the field of cricket. This decision is about acknowledging the past and present day injustices that still impact First Nations’ families.

Given Australia’s first cricket team to travel overseas to England in 1868 was an all Aboriginal team, it is commendable that CA is following its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). ‘Our RAP vision of Cricket Connecting Country comes with it accountability for cricket to be a leader and use our influence to have a positive social impact on our community.’

It irritates and annoys Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Yet despite pressure from the PM to alter its decision, Cricket Australia stood firm. After all, why waste time on establishing a RAP and not follow through. Or worse, like Rio Tinto, ignore it, and go ahead and blow up ancient rock sites more than 60,000 years old. Condemnation from the PM over that disastrous failure by Rio Tinto was totally absent. Reconciliation Australia rejected Rio Tinto outright and revoked its endorsement.

CA’s decision, with its First Nations committee, shows leadership. Meanwhile, the PM and his team are sitting in the grandstand still at tea and haven’t even got their whites on yet. They’re simply not serious players.


'We can as a country change this. COVID-19 has showed us we know how to work together when all our lives depend on it. We know how to survive. We want to continue to survive.'


On January 26 Indigenous designs were on the clothes of each BBL team and Welcome to Country ceremonies held. CA’s Mel Jones, a retired Australian women's Test and ODI player, said ‘There was no politics in regards to changing the date or anything along those lines. The conversation was purely about, “how do we help this day be as safe and respectful for everyone involved in cricket”’.

Australia has the highest rate of Indigenous incarceration. The Northern Territory rate of Indigenous juvenile incarceration is the worst. The high rates of removal of First Nations’ children from their families signifies serious structural and community dislocation, trauma, and violence.

We can as a country change this. COVID-19 has showed us we know how to work together when all our lives depend on it. We know how to survive. We want to continue to survive.

A constitutionally enshrined First Nations’ Voice to the Australian Parliament is imperative to enabling positive change in our country moving forward. 

So remember we are a democracy, and we have our individual views. But to survive takes a collective mindset and determination to work together in overcoming our differences. Please take the time to reflect and respect the views of others.




Malarndirri McCarthy is a Northern Territory Senator and Yanyuwa Garrwa woman from the Gulf of Carpentaria.

This is an amended version of an opinion piece that ran in The Sunday Territorian on Sunday, 24 January 2021.

Main image: The Scorchers celebrate winning the Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and the Perth Scorchers at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on January 23, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Malarndirri McCarthy, Australia Day, Invasion Day, Scott Morrison, Cricket Australia



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Existing comments

I just love the way this was managed; possible crowd restrictions may have influenced Cricket "Australia" / BBL event planning but my guess is the uniforms were commissioned months in advance yet somehow the public advice of keeping Australia day and the Anthem out of the event was dumped on the public and an unwitting PM just prior to the event. This is not leadership by CA its more commonly known as subterfuge; perhaps I am more frightened by the obvious power of any RAP Comittee to deliver an apparently last minute decision than the decision itself. I hope Cricket "Australia" has a good re-think about its own identity rather some anachronistic delivery of what they might want to be...perhaps a name change is in order? Just another piece of sandpaper in the undies... but maybe it was an prompt to Scomo; if there was an enshrined Voice to Parliament he might has received a "heads up" and had time for a vote.

ray | 28 January 2021  

I was born in England the land of Captains Philip and Cook. If we have 365 day from which to choose a day to make all Australians ; old and new feel ,comfortable and valued why pick the one on which this land was deemed British! Seems to me a bit like having a Holocaust regret day on Hitler’s birthday.

Denis Bartrum | 28 January 2021  

"Cricket Australia's decision [not to mention Australia Day in its games played on that day] shows leadership" Is its demand to vaccinate its cricket team of very healthy sportsmen as a priority over front line health workers, the elderly and the sick most threatened by death from Covid-19 also an example of its great leadership? This country is sorely in need of a "change in attitude" and our Aboriginal communities are not the object, nor will they be the beneficiaries of CA's concerns. All that matters, at whatever the cost, is some obscenely overpaid non jobs.

john frawley | 28 January 2021  

I agree with Ray's comments; however, I would add that other sporting organizations should follow Cricket Australia's lead. It reminds me of the American Football's 'bend the knee' acknowledgement of George Floyd's death, which Donald Trump condemned. Both are good community signals to the respective governments that the peoples of Australia and the United States feel compassion for the people, and respect towards those oppressed by governments.

JOHN WILLIS | 28 January 2021  

'First Nations' is misleading because it ropes in Torres Strait Islanders who are really a different people from Aborigines and have had a different history with white settlement. As for the grievance industry, the only medicine that works is an outcome where Aborigines in general integrate into the economy to the extent of getting wallets that are as thick as those of whites. This involves the domain of the individual because reward for effort can only be fair when calculated at the level of the individual. When the wallets of, at most, several hundred thousand adults, become coequal from the rewards of functional personal effort, there will be no rational excuse to harp upon the past. It’s all to do with personal access to money (an earthly form of grace). If this approach seems Marxian, well, even Marx can be correct twice a day. If harping upon the past distracts from the domain of individual effort towards emancipation, harping on the past is a sin against those individuals because it holds them down like a knee on a neck.

roy chen yee | 29 January 2021  

Thank you for this article Malarndirri McCarthy. To my way of thinking, it is an argument for both changing the attitude towards our indigenous people and changing the date of Australia Day to one that has their support. I do not expect Cricket Australia to take the high moral ground in national affairs, but I am grateful that it has taken this stand and has been prepared stare down the howls of outrage from Scott Morrison and the LNP, his cabinet, and the conservative media and members of the public. The fact is that many Australians who believe in a fair go and reckon that our indigenous people have been treated appallingly since the British invasion of this land. The change of attitude will surely have to involve:: * replacing the Union Jack on our flag with an Aboriginal symbol * replacing the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Commission to enable our indigenous people to have a more meaningful say in national affairs * developing a treaty * including a positive reference to our indigenous people in the Australian Constitution * urgently reviewing the recommendations of the 1987 Black Death in Custody Royal Commission and implementing them and others * ensuring that indigenous communities get adequate funding in health, education, housing and social services to improve their quality of life * giving more recognition to those indigenous people who died in frontier wars * give greater recognition and support to the Reconciliation movement Many will say we cannot afford to do this, but we need to remember that our governments over a long period of time have squandered billions of dollars on fighting US instigated wars, giving huge handouts to wealthy Australians and the large corporations (many of whom pay little or no tax), funding for unnecessary projects (eg more Captain Cook statues) etc etc. We should be doing these things to respect our indigenous people and to enhance national healing and unity.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 02 February 2021  

Malarndirri McCarthy says in regard to democracy "But to survive takes a collective mindset and determination to work together in overcoming our differences." As a nation we have come together in regards to Indigenous history several times. The apology to the Stolen Generations was one, but, it was an Australian Parliament apology on behalf of the nation. To me, the more significant occasion was the 1967 referendum when 91% of the nation voted to correct an obvious injustice. To go forward for genuine reconciliation, should not that event be a rallying point for all Australians that we can act together to create a nation that acknowledges its history, so that it can go forward together.

Rob Harpham | 15 February 2021