Indigenous cricket star Ash Gardner has slammed Australia Day as celebrating ‘the beginning of genocide’ as she prepares to play on the controversial holiday.
The 25-year-old Muruwari woman, whose mother and ancestors come from north-western NSW, took to social media on Sunday morning to share her desire to educate Aussies on just what the national holiday means to Indigenous peoples.
Gardner, who is currently the number one ranked T20 all-rounder in the world, has been playing for Australia in a three-match ODI series against Pakistan, which the side easily won in a whitewash.
Indigenous Aussie cricket star Ash Gardner, pictured with a dot painting she painted herself, has spoken out about the trauma Australia Day is for her, and her people
Gardner, pictured with long-term partner Monica, took to social media on Sunday to tell Aussies why the national holiday was about celebrating ‘genocide, massacres and dispossession’
Gardner, who has been starring with ball in hand after not being needed with the bat, appeals during Australia’s win over Pakistan in Brisbane on January 16
The side will now embark on a three-match T20 series, with the second match set to be played in Hobart on Australia Day.
The outspoken Indigenous advocate wrote that when she takes to the field on the controversial holiday, she will be reflecting on what the day means to her ancestors.
‘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.
‘My culture is something I hold close to my heart … and I’m always so proud to speak about whenever asked.
‘For those who don’t have a good understanding of what the day means, it was the beginning of genocide, massacres and dispossession,’ Gardner wrote.
Ash Gardner (left) celebrates a wicket with Aussie skipper Meg Lanning during the side’s dominant win over Pakistan on Saturday
The Sydney Sixers star, who has played 120 matches for the national side and is the reigning Belinda Clark Medallist, which is awarded to Australia’s best women’s international cricketer every year, quickly became a fan favourite thanks to her astonishing ability to clear the fence.
She’s also become a powerful and well-respected advocate for First Nations peoples.
Gardner was a key driving force behind introducing an Indigenous Round to the WBBL in 2021, with First Nations customs like a smoking ceremony, basket weaving and a barefoot circle also now commonplace in the league – and the male BBL equivalent.
The superstar batter and off-spinner also has her own charity, the Ashleigh Gardner Foundation, which aims to ‘increase the percentage of Aboriginal kids finishing high school’.
She also began doing Indigenous dot painting – and is just as good with brush in hand as she is a bat – during Covid, and designed a range of bedding with First Nations prints for Harvey Norman.
Gardner began a new hobby of Indigenous dot painting during Covid, as was commissioned for a number of works, including a range of bedding with Harvey Norman
So it is safe to say she is someone who wants to use her platform to educate Aussies of all ethnicities about the plight of Indigenous peoples, both in the past and present.
Gardner was scathing though, of the decision to schedule one of Australia’s fixtures against Pakistan on January 26 – the day the First Fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788, and transformed the great southern land into the multicultural country it is today.
‘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 on social media.
‘As a national team we have a platform to raise awareness about certain issues and I’m using this platform to hopefully educate others on a journey to learn about the longest living culture in the world.
‘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,’ wrote Gardner.
Ash Gardner (right) pictured with teammates Charli Knott and Georgia Voll during the national anthem prior to the Governer General’s XI game against Pakistan. Gardner captained the side
A number of Aussie stars took to social media to support their teammate; with Jess Jonassen, Hannah Darlington and Maitlan Brown among those to share the post, while Alana King, whose parents emigrated to Australia from India, said ‘we’re all right with ya girl’.
Many applauded her strong stance, writing messages of support and praising her ‘courage’ to discuss the matter.
However, not everyone agreed with her strong sentiments.
Some called for her to ‘stand by her morals and not play’ if she felt so strongly about the day, while others called her out for being ‘divisive’.
The comments section on her Twitter post was also flooded with racist comments which the star was forced to delete and block.
It’s unlike to rattle Gardner much, who has been very vocal on how special her Indigenous heritage, through her mother, is to her – and why it’s important she help others understand it.
‘Our Indigenous people are so special and that’s a conversation I want to be part of and to continue so that people can appreciate the unique elements of our culture,’ she told the ABC in 2021.
‘Being a proud Aboriginal person is always at the forefront of my mind when I represent any team and especially my country.
‘It’s just about being proud and not taking anything for granted … When I play sport, I’m conscious that I’m trying to be a positive role model for other Aboriginal kids,’ said Gardner at the time.
That being said, Gardner, who said she has never copped racist treatment on the field but has from fans, has previously admitted that being an Indigenous athlete on the world stage does come with ‘its challenges’.
Ash Gardner smashes her trademark slog sweep shot in a WBBL match for the Sixers
‘When you’re in the spotlight because of your sport, you almost become a bit like a political figure,’ she told the Daily Telegraph.
‘You’re faced with all these different challenges and opinions around things that should or shouldn’t be happening in the sporting world, you almost fall into the trap of always having to have opinions on political things, rather than just having to worry about your sport.
‘But in saying that, it’s something that I’m super proud of, and so lucky to be involved in cricket and in elite sport and being a proud Aboriginal person just tops it off,’ said Gardner.
Gardner has often shared this experience with Wiradjuri man Dan Christian, the veteran Aussie all-rounder and Sixers star, who recently announced he would be retiring following the BBL.
Christian presented Gardner with her baggy green prior to her Test debut in 2019, and the pair have also previously led male and female Aboriginal touring sides of the UK.
Ash Gardner, left, with fellow Indigenous Aussie cricketer Dan Christian, who have both become outspoken advocates for First Nations peoples.
Both Christian and Gardner have previously spoken about their desire to grow the presence of Indigenous peoples in cricket – and improve the access to the game, with AFL and rugby league far more popular with Aboriginals.
‘The line that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is quite true in cricket at the moment with the number of Indigenous players that do play at the highest level,’ Gardner told AAP earlier this month, scathing of the lack of First Nations representation.
‘It is traditionally quite a white sport, so it is probably not overly attractive for Indigenous communities.
‘It is certainly going to be a challenge for CA (Cricket Australia) to keep growing it in those areas, but the way we are going about it … hopefully reaching out to more communities can encourage people to try cricket and fall in love with it,’ said Gardner.
Gardner, who hasn’t had much opportunity with the bat of late, was in brilliant bowling form in Saturday’s dominant win over Pakistan to whitewash the series, taking 3/30 with her offspinners as Beth Mooney (133) and Meg Lanning (72) ran riot.
The teams will begin their three-game T20 series on Tuesday at North Sydney Oval, before they play on Australia Day in Hobart, where, no doubt, all eyes will being on Ashleigh Katherine Gardner as she reflects on the ‘genocide, massacres and dispossession’ she says the holiday represents.