Australian Open organisers will celebrate the women’s game and not Australia Day on Thursday joining a growing number of organisations seeking to avoid conflict over the national holiday.
After the Victorian government axed its Australia Day parade and amid a growing backlash from athletes about celebrating on January 26, Australian Open officials won’t officially recognise the day.
It comes after Australian cricket star Ash Gardner declared her opposition to Cricket Australia scheduling a T20 on January 26, a day which she said marked the beginning of “genocide, massacres and dispossession”.
Cricket Australia has also stopped referring to Australia Day in any promotions for games on January 26.
The Australian national anthem will be played before the night session at Melbourne Park but there will be no reference to Australia Day or any ceremonies to mark the occasion as a result of “differing views” on celebrating the national day.
“We are mindful there are differing views, and at the Australian Open we are inclusive and respectful of all,’’ Tennis Australia said in a statement.
“We acknowledge the historical significance and deep spiritual connection our First Peoples have to this land, and recognise this with a Welcome to Country on stadium screens prior to both the day and night session daily.’’
There was a First Nations Day at the Australian Open last week and there will also be a Pride Day at the tournament, but nothing for Australia Day.
Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said last week that Australia Day was a challenging day for First Nations people and required appropriate actions including those taken by the Australian Open.
“Celebrations are had across the state and are organised by different communities in different ways,” she said.
“It is appropriate that Australia Day events recognise that for some, in particular our First Nations people, it can be a really difficult and challenging day.”
In her strong stance against celebrating Australia Day, Gardner, who will play against Pakistan in a T20 in Hobart, said it should be a day of reflection instead.
‘Unfortunately this year the Australian women’s cricket team has been scheduled to play a game on the 26th of January, which certainly doesn’t sit well with me as an individual, but also all the people I’m representing,’ she wrote.
‘When I take the field for this game, I will certainly be reflecting and thinking about all my ancestors and peoples lives who changed from this day.’
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