Organisers of the Australian Open 2023 will not recognise Australia Day on Thursday after protests and rallies are being organised across the country. January 26 marks the 1788 landing of Britain’s First Fleet at Sydney Cove and raising of the Union Flag by Arthur Phillip following days of exploration of Port Jackson in New South Wales.
“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 after Indigenous sports stars in the country speak up against the day.
“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,” the statement read.
Thousands of Australians marked the country’s national day celebrations on Thursday with rallies in support of Indigenous people, many of whom describe the anniversary of the day a British fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour as “Invasion Day”.
Many of Australia’s 880,000 or so Indigenous people out of a population of 25 million lag behind others on economic and social indicators in what the government calls “entrenched inequality”.
This year’s holiday comes as Albanese’s centre-left Labor Party government plans a referendum on recognising Indigenous people in the constitution, and requiring consultation with them on decisions that affect their lives.
The government plans to introduce legislation in March to set up the referendum that will take place later this year, as the Indigenous voice shapes as a key federal political issue.
The constitution, which came into effect in January 1901 and can’t be amended without a referendum, does not refer to the country’s Indigenous people.