‘We need your voice to join us’: Ash Gardner’s strong call for change on Australia Day date

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‘We need your voice to join us’: Ash Gardner’s strong call for change on Australia Day date
Read Time:7 Minute, 23 Second


Newly minted Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ash Gardner is proud to represent Australia and equally proud to represent her mob but says Australia Day should not be on January 26 – and has a unifying message on why.

Today, Selina Steele from Fox Sports speaks with the proud Indigenous woman who treasures the history of her ancestors who lived for thousands of years alongside the river red gums and satiny bluebush of Muruwari country in northern New South Wales.

A hectic cricket schedule and COVID19 shutdown meant Gardner had never set foot on Muruwari country until May last year where she used the off season to connect with country.

There she was greeted with a smoking ceremony … and an overwhelming sense of what Baggy Green No. 174 meant to her mob and in the pantheon of Australian cricket.

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Growing up, the 25-year-old looked up to the likes of Cathy Freeman and the late Andrew Symonds but now understands she sits alongside Eddie Betts and Ash Barty as a current role model to her mob – and Generation Next.

In taking her place, Gardner would like to pay respect to all elders past and present and in particular to the strong Indigenous women that have forged a path on the national sporting landscape.

Gardner also wants to use her voice in the hope that all of Australia’s mob come to understand why reconciliation – and changing the date of Australia Day – is so important to First Nations people.

And why hearing comments that she doesn’t look “Aboriginal enough” still happen – and still hurt.

In receiving Baggy Green 174, Gardner became just the second Australian woman behind Aunty Faith Thomas to wear the famous cap – 60 years on from when Auntie Faith carved up England at Junction Oval in St. Kilda in 1958.

Ash Gardner is a weapon with the bat. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Q: How important is your journey it to recognise culture?

A: There are many important reasons to recognise my culture. Firstly, it is who I am and my identity. Secondly, I am a role model for other First Nations’ kids so to have someone to look up to is important. Thirdly, I have a platform to leverage off … I can use this to highlight issues and promote positive things that happen within our culture.

Q: You love representing Australia but at the same time you recognise the responsibility of representing your mob … ?

A: It was always a dream of mine to represent Australia in all three formats and very fortunate to have done so the past five years. It’s even more important to represent my mob to show to them that people just like them are representing sport at the highest level. Also, I want to give them someone to look up to in the sport of cricket as we don’t have the representation for young people to idolise.

Q: Why is changing the date of Australia Day is important to First Nations People?

A: It’s extremely important to change the date of Australia Day because it isn’t a representation of Australia. I don’t see why we need to celebrate a day where our country was invaded by settlers. Changing the day would allow all Australians to celebrate the place we call home, to celebrate what we have now but also understanding and respecting the past.

Changing the date represents inclusion and solidarity and it would allow for all Australians to be able to celebrate. We want to be a country that celebrates diversity and changing the date would represent this.

Ash Gardner spent the extra time in lockdown working on her art. (Instagram)Source: Supplied

Q: Have you experienced racism? Do you, at times, feel like you have to live between two worlds?

A: I experienced racism mostly through school where I would get questioned if I was Aboriginal or not … that and throw-away comments about Aboriginal people getting everything for free. More recently, I had a make-up artist make the comment that I didn’t look Aboriginal. At the time I just stated that I was Aboriginal … she kept digging herself a hole, saying I just didn’t look it and I didn’t engage in the debate. If I had my time again, I would have questioned her on that comment and let her know that it was extremely hurtful.

Q: How do we bring mainstream Australia on this journey? How do we travel on the same path to know better?

A: I think it all stems back from education. One major issue is students not learning about our past as much as they should in school. That is certainly one area that can improve to have a generational impact and change. But ultimately it’s having conversations with people. It sounds simple but if people are talking about the culture one thing leads to another and people start to change their thinking around certain issues.

Q: If you were to pick one particular conversation that all Australians should be having when it comes to First Nations people, what would it be?

A: I would ask, how are you going to become an ally? How are you going to help change trends and statistics that affect First Nation’s people?

Q: What does Reconciliation look like?

A: It’s being comfortable having uncomfortable conversations with non-Indigenous people. It’s being able to help educate non-Indigenous people about our history and culture. With this being said it will then create that bond between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work towards reconciliation in this country.

Ash Gardner speaks to the media. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for Cricket Australia)Source: Getty Images

Q: Why is it important for all Australians to play a role in Reconciliation?

A: It’s important for all Australians to play a role in reconciliation because Aboriginal people only make up 3 per cent of Australia’s population. Although our voices can be heard it would be even more powerful for the other 97 per cent of the population to raise their voices and be an ally in reconciliation.

Q: How important is it to have Indigenous voices on boards and on Commissions as part of national sporting bodies?

A: It’s extremely important as a lot of sports don’t have this at all. I have to look at cricket specifically and yes, it’s a traditionally white sport stemming from England but things need to change. We have people making decisions on behalf of First Nation’s people that have no personal connection to the things they’re trying to implement. It’s disheartening knowing there aren’t people that can make decisions on behalf of their own people. If all sports want to take this seriously, they need to have different voices on boards that can see things from multiple perspectives.

Q: What did it mean to see Patty Mills carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games and for the Matildas also to carry the flag?

A: It was huge! People like Patty and the Matildas have huge followings on social media and its acts like these that spark conversations around why they’re doing it. Ultimately that’s what we try and do as sports people other than playing entertaining sport – it’s to create conversations about different things that are happening in this country not just the sport alone.

Q: How do you continue to connect with community?

A: COVID was good in one aspect it gave me a lot of time to do some different things. One was dot painting and it was a direct way to connect to my culture through creating artworks and being able to tell stories through this. Another opportunity I got was to go on to country last year which was incredibly special. I got to go there with my mum and 10 or so other Muruwari people and felt extremely connected to the lands and to my ancestors. There was a smoking ceremony done as soon as we got there to welcome us to the lands and a bit of time to reflect on our ancestors who paved the way for us today.

Australian cricketer Ash Gardner plays for the Sydney Sixers in the WBBL.

The Sixers play the Melbourne Stars in their opening game of the season on October 16 – live streamed on KAYO.

Coverage of the WBBL is part of Kayo’s commitment to Women’s Sport which features a record number of broadcast hours for women’s sport in September through to October.



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