Ash Gardner’s Australia Day stance has full support of Australian teammates

Australian captain Meg Lanning has revealed teammate Ash Gardner has been attacked online for her comments criticising Cricket Australia’s decision to play a match on January 26, but declared the team is “fully supportive” of the star all-rounder’s stance.

Gardner, a proud Muruwari woman, used social media to express her disappointment that Australia will play Pakistan in the second of three T20 matches on a date she says brings “hurt and mourning” to her and her people.

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Cricket Australia won’t refer to January 26 as Australia Day, but the historical significance of the date and the hurt it brings First Nations people is why Gardner felt the need to speak out.

Lanning said Gardner’s conviction should be praised and she had the full support of her teammates.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions as a group around the game on Jan 26,” Lanning told reporters at North Sydney Oval.

“I’d like to say that we’re fully supportive of Ash and her stance and her feelings and views around it.

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

“I know that there was a lot of consultation with NATSICAT (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee) who advise Cricket Australia on the issues with First Nations people and things like that.

“We weren’t directly consulted – we were involved in some conversations – but at the end of the day, it’s not our decision to make. We go out there and play, and we’ll all worry about things we can control.”

Gardner, the second Indigenous woman to play Test cricket for Australia, said she would play on Thursday in the hope of representing her ancestors.

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

“For those who don’t have a good understanding of what that day means, it was the beginning of genocide, massacres and dispossession.”

Gardner, who was at Monday’s training session, was the victim of vile abuse on social media from people who attacked her stance.

Lanning praised her star teammate for standing up for what she believed in.

“She’s going pretty well. Obviously putting out her feelings and views on the issue is a brave step,” Lanning said.

“She’s been a great leader in our group and also out in the community on issues First Nations people face.

“She’s going pretty well, but it can be pretty daunting sometimes getting some of the feedback that she gets, but we’re very supportive of her and we’re 100 per cent behind it.”

The reigning Belinda Clark Award winner will play in Thursday’s match, with Lanning revealing there were never any discussions for Gardner to boycott the game.

“We had a lot of discussions, but we didn’t get to that point,” the skipper said.

“She expressed her views yesterday in terms of how she felt, and that was part of the discussions. We’ve had a number of them and they’ve been really good discussions.

“She’s given us amazing insight into what impact the day has on First Nations people. I think she’s been really brave, and we’ll just go out there and play and do what we can control.”

Cricket Australia has brought in a number of initiatives to promote First Nations people with special jersey designs and barefoot circles before matches, while there have also been initiatives put in place to help players learn more about the culture.

It’s why the team will wear an Indigenous jersey on January 26 and also spend the previous day on a cultural tour in Tasmania.

“It’s something that we’ve been working on as a group for a number years,” Lanning said.

“We’ve been trying to use every opportunity that we get to educate ourselves and try to celebrate the culture of First Nations people as well and try to make a point of that.

“We will be wearing our Indigenous jersey on Jan 26 and there are a few other things as well. We’re doing a cultural tour the day before to learn a little bit more.

“It’s something as a group that we’ve spoken about for the past few years; it hasn’t just come up now.

“We’ll continue to do that because we think it’s important.”

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