Anthony Mundine has become the latest Indigenous star to hit out against Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Australia Day comments.
Morrison sparked an angry backlash on Thursday while discussing Cricket Australia’s decision to stop using the term ‘Australia Day’ for the trio of matches being played on the January 26 public holiday.
‘DISGRACE’: Outrage over top award for Margaret Court
As well as doing away with the ‘Australia Day’ wording, three Big Bash clubs will wear Indigenous jerseys and one game this weekend will have a barefoot circle, Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony.
The initiatives come from CA’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee (NATSICOC), in a bid to normalise conversation about January 26’s history.
Morrison on Thursday told CA to stick to cricket, while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton labelled it a “token attempt” and urged the sport to reverse the call.
“It's not cricket. That would be my reaction,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Central Queensland.
“Australian cricket fans would like Cricket Australia to focus a lot more on cricket and a lot less on politics.”
However, Mundine has praised CA's decision to do away with the divisive 'Australia Day' term, urging the Prime Minster and those that disagree with its removal to do some research into why it is so painful for many Indigenous Australians.
“It was a great initiative by Cricket Australia and what they wanted to do, but for ‘ScoMo’ to come out and rebel against that, it shows you where the country is at,” Mundine told Nine.
“If we’re going to move forward for a better Australia, you have to do your history, research the anthem, research the flag, Australia Day … that day blood was spilled and genocide was rife.
“The anthem and flag and actual day itself, to me it’s a dark, dark day.
“We have to change the date and have a day when we can celebrate the new Australia and moving forward rather than the old Australia and the dark past.”
Mundine's comments come after Aussie Olympic legend Cathy Freeman also took aim at the Prime Minister's Australia Day stance.
Mr Morrison said Australia Day - also known as Invasion Day - was an important date to reflect on how far the country has come.
He spoke about the experience of those aboard the First Fleet, who raised the Union Jack for the first time on January 26, 1788 after arriving the previous week.
“On Australia Day, it’s all about acknowledging how far we’ve come,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
“You know, when those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”
PM’s comments come under fire
The comments went down like a lead balloon, with many slamming the Prime Minister for seemingly brushing over the horrors suffered by Australia’s Indigenous people.
On Friday, Indigenous Olympic icon Freeman weighed in, taking aim at the Prime Minister.
“You can’t compare the experiences of those 12 ships that first arrived to this country to what their arrival meant for all generations of Australia’s First Nations people!” she wrote on Twitter.
You can’t compare the experiences of those 12 ships that first arrived to
this country to what their arrival meant for all generations of Australia's First Nations people!
— Cathy Freeman (@CathyFreeman) January 22, 2021
For many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, January 26 is a day of sorrow and mourning.
Indigenous Greens senator Lidia Thorpe said Mr Morrison’s comments were disrespectful and offensive.
“Maybe the colonising First Fleet did feel sick on the boat over here,” she said.
“I can tell you that we feel sick to think that January 26 is a day that the leaders of this country should choose as the national day of celebration. For First Nations people, it's like dancing on the graves of our ancestors.”
Labor’s Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney also scolded the PM.
“Suffering is not a competition. What the prime minister has said makes no sense,” she said.
“As the leader of the country, he has an example to set for the rest of the nation and he should know better.
“How can we expect to see real progress on issues such as reconciliation and closing the gap when he makes such ignorant and unhelpful comments like this?”
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.