Essendon, Kangaroos back Australia Day date change as former Swan speaks out
Essendon, Kangaroos back Australia Day date change as former Swan speaks out

Roos join Dons in call for new day of ‘national celebration’

North Melbourne has joined Essendon in calling for a change of date for Australia Day, the two clubs becoming the latest major sporting sides to put their weight behind a move.

After Cricket Australia's move to drop all references to Australia Day, which was met with strong support from Big Bash League side Sydney Thunder, the Bombers took a stand by saying January 26 was not a day to celebrate.

"We at Essendon Football Club acknowledge that today is a day of sadness and pain for indigenous peoples," the club's statement read.

"We are committed to being a culturally safe and inclusive place where Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples want to play, work and support. We value our strong connection with Indigenous Australia and we are committed to reconciliation and celebration the survival of the oldest living culture on earth. We look forward to a time when all Australians can enjoy a day of national celebration together."

 

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Essendon legend Michael Long has been a loud voice against racism. Picture: David Caird
Essendon legend Michael Long has been a loud voice against racism. Picture: David Caird

North Melbourne followed suit, releasing its own similar statement.

"The North Melbourne Football Club is committed to reconciliation and acknowledges this date marks a day of sadness for many," the Kangaroos' statement read.

 

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Former Sydney star Jude Bolton turned down an invitation to be an Australia Day ambassador this year. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Former Sydney star Jude Bolton turned down an invitation to be an Australia Day ambassador this year. Picture: Phil Hillyard

"We are proud of and respect our first people and look forward to celebrating our country together and on a day that can be enjoyed by all."

Former Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy was a pioneer in increasing the prevalence of indigenous players in the AFL and the Bombers have are a partner of The Long Walk, an organisation set up by former Bombers champion Michael Long which aims to improve and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and life opportunities.

Other AFL clubs also released statements acknowledging indigenous Australians on what some believe to be a day of "sadness".

"We at Richmond Football Club acknowledge today is a day of sadness for many of us," the Tigers' statement read.

 

 

 

 

"We place enormous value on our connection with indigenous Australia. We stand united in our commitment to reconciliation and celebrating the survival of the world's oldest living culture."

The club statements came as former Sydney champion Jude Bolton revealed he had turned down an invitation to be an Australia Day ambassador, given he was "mindful of the mixed feelings from a number of close indigenous friends around the current date".

Bolton's former teammate Adam Goodes was named Australian of the Year in 2014 but said after accepting the award that, "It's a very sad day for a lot of our mob".

The AFL did not buy into the date change debate in its own statement, which was released to congratulate the 11 people involved in football who received Australia Day Honours.

However, the league's executive general manager of inclusion and social policy, Tanya Hosch, had last week called on decision makers to "revisit that date".

 

 

Originally published as Roos join Dons in call for new day of 'national celebration'