Cricket great Jason Gillespie wants Australia Day’s date changed after Ash Gardner’s criticism

The furore surrounding Australia Day continues to ignite in the sporting world, with Aussie cricket legend Jason Gillespie calling for the date to be changed.

The 47-year-old former quick – who was Australia’s first acknowledged Indigenous Test cricketer – believes the national holiday marking the First Fleet’s landing in Sydney is not held on the right date.

A veteran of 71 Tests, Gillespie is now a highly regarded coach with the Adelaide Strikers and South Australia, and the Kamilaroi man is also an advocate for Indigenous people.

He has taken a side amid the fierce debate on whether Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26.

Jason Gillespie, pictured wearing the Adelaide Strikers Indigenous jersey, is calling for the date of Australia Day to be changed

Jason Gillespie, pictured wearing the Adelaide Strikers Indigenous jersey, is calling for the date of Australia Day to be changed

The Scorchers and Strikers play for a trophy bearing Gillespie's name, and which celebrates his Indigenous heritage

The Scorchers and Strikers play for a trophy bearing Gillespie’s name, and which celebrates his Indigenous heritage

‘A day in which all Australians can celebrate would be my preference,’ Gillespie told News Corp on Sunday.

‘What a lot of people don’t realize is that history shows Australia Day has not always been celebrated on January 26.

‘The conversations need to continue to explore an alternative.’

His remarks come after Ash Gardner posted a withering takedown of the holiday as the world no. 1 ranked all-rounder prepares to play on Australia Day with the women’s side against Pakistan.

Ash Gardner, a Muruwari woman, has become a fierce advocate for Indigenous Australians and enjoys doing traditional dot paintings

Ash Gardner, a Muruwari woman, has become a fierce advocate for Indigenous Australians and enjoys doing traditional dot paintings

The 25-year-old, whose mother and ancestors come from north-western NSW, will play on January 26 in the second game of the series, but said it ‘didn’t sit well’ with her.

‘As a proud Muruwari woman and reflecting on what January 26 means to me and my people, it is a day of hurt and mourning,’ she posted on social media on Sunday.

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

‘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.

‘When I take the field for this game, I will certainly be reflecting and thinking about all my ancestors and people’s lives who changed from this day.’

Ash Gardner (right, pictured before captaining the Governor General's XI against Pakistan earlier this month) has been scathing of Cricket Australia's decision to schedule a game on Australia Day

Ash Gardner (right, pictured before captaining the Governor General’s XI against Pakistan earlier this month) has been scathing of Cricket Australia’s decision to schedule a game on Australia Day

It was a combative response to Cricket Australia scheduling an international match on Australia Day, although it’s believed it was simply to ensure the final game of the three-match series could be held on a Sunday.

Gardner’s take provoked a fierce response on social media.

Some praised her ‘courage’ to stand up for her culture, while others slammed her for being ‘divisive’ and not acknowledging how life has changed Down Under since the First Fleet landed and transformed Australia into the thriving multicultural society it is today.

The game’s governing body, which has introduced a raft of pro-Indigenous policies and practices in recent years, acknowledged January 26 could be a date that is traumatic to First Nations peoples.

Jason Gillespie (left), Shane Watson (centre) and Mike Hussey (right) inspect WWI graves in France in 2005, just prior to an Ashes series

Jason Gillespie (left), Shane Watson (centre) and Mike Hussey (right) inspect WWI graves in France in 2005, just prior to an Ashes series

‘Cricket Australia acknowledges 26 January is a day that has multiple meanings and evokes mixed feelings in communities across our richly diverse nation,’ a statement from the organization read.

‘We respectfully acknowledge it is a challenging day for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and for some people the day is regarded as a day of mourning. Cricket Australia understands and acknowledges Ash’s position and appreciates her leadership and the contributions of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the game of cricket.

‘We will use the T20 International scheduled for 26 January as an opportunity to continue our ongoing education journey with First Nations people,’ read Sunday’s statement.

Just two of Australia’s 464 male Test representatives – Gillespie and cult hero Scott Boland – have been Indigenous.

Jason Gillespie, pictured with Strikers star Rashid Khan earlier this month, is one of just two Indigenous males to play Test cricket for Australia

Jason Gillespie, pictured with Strikers star Rashid Khan earlier this month, is one of just two Indigenous males to play Test cricket for Australia

Gillespie, pictured celebrating a wicket in 1997, believes more needs to be done to encourage Indigenous Australians to play cricket

Gillespie, pictured celebrating a wicket in 1997, believes more needs to be done to encourage Indigenous Australians to play cricket

Cricket has often not done a good job of encouraging Indigenous Australians to play the game, although with the cultural shift and desire not to highlight the national holiday, that is very slowly changing.

Gillespie has previously been very critical of that very fact.

‘The intent is there. Time will tell,’ he told Fox Sports in 2021.

‘One thing the football codes have done really well is help with participation and get out and drive their cause

‘In cricket there is a bit more to be organized, I suppose. I think a lot of that has got to do with the good work the footy codes have done to engage with Indigenous people and get the game at the forefront of their minds.

‘We know AFL is a very popular sport for Indigenous players, as is rugby league. I feel these sports have been good in getting out to the communities and in schools,’ said Gillespie.

Jason Gillespie, pictured playing against Bangladesh in 2006, has previously said he didn't understand why his Indigenous heritage wasn't celebrated more when he made his debut

Jason Gillespie, pictured playing against Bangladesh in 2006, has previously said he didn’t understand why his Indigenous heritage wasn’t celebrated more when he made his debut

The quirky quick was also puzzled that, when he made his debut for Australia, nothing was done to celebrate his heritage and position as the country’s first Indigenous Test cricketer.

‘I always found it weird that it took so long to come out because I always knew I was of Indigenous descent and all my mates knew it,’ he said.

‘I was never asked (initially). It was a strange one. Then when it did come out I couldn’t believe how much publicity it got.

‘I was incredibly proud. My brother is still working with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in South Australia and dad was CEO for about a decade.’

The Aboriginal (left) and Australian (right) flags, pictured on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, are a visual representation of the fierce debate over the national holiday date

The Aboriginal (left) and Australian (right) flags, pictured on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, are a visual representation of the fierce debate over the national holiday date

There is no BBL fixture on Australia Day, and despite a long history of big men’s international fixtures on the public holiday, only Gardner and the Aussie women will play this year when they take on Pakistan in Hobart.

And all eyes will be on how Gardner copes with a day she says celebrates ‘genocide and massacres’.

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