SUNDAY TERRITORIAN: 24 January 2021, Change the Attitude - Not the date

SUNDAY TERRITORIAN: 24 January 2021, Change the Attitude - Not the date Main Image

By Senator Malarndirri McCarthy

24 January 2021

Published in The Sunday Territorian, Sunday 24 January 2021.

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.

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 stands 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.

Many in the PM’s team still support the insurrection on the US Capital in recent weeks, now flirting with dark intentions to destabilise democracy more broadly in Australia.

What a breath of much needed global fresh air, and hope, is President Joe Biden. With 400,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, more casualties than in the Second World War, President Biden has made it his priority to make sure all Americans survive.

On January 26 Indigenous designs will be 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'".

Organisations like CA are trying to make progress, to fill the void in leadership left by the PM.

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 on January 26, or Australia Day, or Survival Day or Invasion Day, or just another day, whatever you call it, 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 and stay COVID safe. It’s not about changing the date, it’s about changing attitudes.

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