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Cathy Freeman lashes out over 'offensive' Scott Morrison comments

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Cathy Freeman and Scott Morrison, pictured here in previous years.
Cathy Freeman has taken aim at Scott Morrison. Image: Getty

Cathy Freeman has added to the condemnation of Scott Morrison after the Prime Minister caused controversy with his comments about Australia Day.

Morrison sparked an angry backlash on Thursday while discussing Cricket Australia’s decision to stop using the term ‘Australia Day’.

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The Prime Minister said Australia Day - also known as Invasion Day - was an important date to reflect on how far the country has come.

He spoke about the experience of those aboard the First Fleet, who raised the Union Jack for the first time on January 26, 1788 after arriving the previous week.

“On Australia Day, it’s all about acknowledging how far we’ve come,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.

“You know, when those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”

The comments went down like a lead balloon, with many slamming the Prime Minister for seemingly brushing over the horrors suffered by Australia’s Indigenous people.

On Friday, Indigenous Olympic icon Freeman weighed in, taking aim at Morrison.

“You can’t compare the experiences of those 12 ships that first arrived to this country to what their arrival meant for all generations of Australia’s First Nations people!” she wrote on Twitter.

It was a stark change from her previous tweet on January 1 when she commended the country’s decision to change the wording of the national anthem.

“What a way to start the year!!! A phone call from our Prime Minister to say that we are ‘One and Free’! Thank you!!!” she tweeted.

One of Australia’s most iconic Olympic champions, Freeman won gold in the 400m at the Sydney Games in 2000 before draping both the Australian and Aboriginal flags over her.

Cathy Freeman, pictured here after winning gold in the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Cathy Freeman celebrates after winning gold in the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. (Image: Nick Wilson/ALLSPORT)

Fierce backlash after Scott Morrison comments

The Prime Minister is a descendant of William Roberts, who came to Australia as a convict aboard the Scarborough in the First Fleet.

Critics accused Mr Morrison of drawing a false equivalence between those aboard the First Fleet and the experience of Australia’s Indigenous people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were living on the continent for more than 60,000 years before the British arrived.

Indigenous people have since endured widespread massacres, oppression and dispossession.

For many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, January 26 is a day of sorrow and mourning.

Indigenous Greens senator Lidia Thorpe said Mr Morrison’s comments were disrespectful and offensive.

“Maybe the colonising First Fleet did feel sick on the boat over here,” she said.

“I can tell you that we feel sick to think that January 26 is a day that the leaders of this country should choose as the national day of celebration. For First Nations people, it's like dancing on the graves of our ancestors.”

Labor’s Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney also scolded the PM.

“Suffering is not a competition. What the prime minister has said makes no sense,” she said.

“As the leader of the country, he has an example to set for the rest of the nation and he should know better.

“How can we expect to see real progress on issues such as reconciliation and closing the gap when he makes such ignorant and unhelpful comments like this?”

The Prime Minister represents the seat of Cook, named in honour of Captain James Cook, a navigator in the Royal Navy who is credited as the first European to discover the east coast of Australia in 1770.

Mr Morrison also criticised Cricket Australia for dropping Australia Day references from promotions for Big Bash League games to be played on January 26.

Cricket Australia has refused to reverse its decision.

with AAP

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