Ellyse Perry has her say as sporting bodies weigh in on Australia Day date change

The NRL, Football Australia, Hockeyroos and Kookaburras have all given their opinion.

Ellyse Perry and Ash Gardner.
Ellyse Perry has learned a lot from teammate Ash Gardner. Image: Getty

Ellyse Perry has called for more education around the issues at the heart of the debate around whether we should change the date of Australia Day. The issue has been thrust back into the spotlight this week, with Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia opting against marking the national day due to the pain and hurt it causes First Nations communities.

Cricket Australia have moved against using the term 'Australia Day' in recent years, and won't mark the occasion on the second day of the Gabba Test against the West Indies. The NRL and Football Australia joined Cricket Australia's stance on Friday, while the country's national hockey teams and several AFL clubs are also pushing for an immediate change to the date.

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Aussie cricket stars Pat Cummins and Steve Smith have also expressed their individual belief that there is a more appropriate date to celebrate. Discussing the issue on Thursday, women's star Perry called for more education but stopped short of following the lead of Cummins and Smith.

She said the women's cricket team had learned a lot from indigenous player Ash Gardner, who criticised Cricket Australia for scheduling a T20 on Australia Day last year. The governing body had no real choice but to schedule the Gabba Test over Australia Day this year due to the ODI World Cup pushing the entire summer schedule back significantly.

“I think that’s a much broader national discussion and one that requires much more acumen than I have,” she said. “I think that’s probably not really the focus for us as a team. It’s certainly more about looking at every opportunity we can to educate ourselves and making sure we represent the whole community. Because for us as a team, we very much stand for diversity and inclusion in every space.

“This was a big issue for us as well last year, and for us it’s been a process over the last three or four years to be really invested in learning and educating ourselves as best we can across a lot of these issues. Ash is a wonderful role model for the First Nations community, and we’ve learnt a lot through doing different things, whether that’s cultural experiences or learning from leaders in that space. I think that’s our priority and focus going forward.”

Steve Smith and Pat Cummins.
Steve Smith (centre) and Pat Cummins (R) have both called for the date of Australia Day to be changed. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Hockey teams and AFL clubs call for date change

On Friday, the NRL wrote in a social media post that it "acknowledges today represents a painful and sorrowful day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Today, we pay tribute to the resilience and the enormous contribution our Aboriginal and Torres Strait brothers and sisters make to our nation and the greatest game of all."

Football Australia took a similar stance on social media, writing: "We acknowledge that today has different meanings to our diverse nation. We will always continue to respect, represent and celebrate all the cultures, communities and people that make our country and sport so great."

The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos went one step further, calling for a change of date away from January 26. "We are all proud to be Australians, however we do not see January 26 as a day of celebration," the sides said in a joint statement supported by Hockey Australia.

"Today, the current Hockeyroo and Kookaburra athletes support our sisters Mariah Williams, a proud Wiradjuri woman, and Brooke Peris, a proud Yawuru woman, and stand in solidarity with all First Nations people. Be mindful and have empathy. We can celebrate what it means to be Australian on another day."

AFL club North Melbourne also called for the date to be changed after Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs did so on Thursday. "We encourage listening, understanding and reflection of our Nation's shared past," the Kangaroos said in a statement on Friday. "We will be stronger together when we can celebrate the history of the country we call home, on a date that unites us."

with AAP

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