Leading Indigenous cricketers aim for a more welcoming sport

Dan Christian is proving a prominent advocate on both sides of the world.

The veteran all-rounder is in the West Indies, scoring quick runs in practice matches and discussing taking a knee with his teammates to support Black Lives Matter, ahead of the first T20 international in St Lucia, beginning Saturday morning Australian time.

Veteran all-rounder Dan Christian is at the forefront of cricket’s drive to become more inclusive.Credit:Getty

Christian, 38, has also joined the talented Hannah Darlington, 19, in leading a NSW push to make cricket a more welcoming sport for their fellow Indigenous athletes.

They are spokespeople for the Reconciliation Action Plan launched by Cricket NSW on Friday.

“We can still do more,” Christian told the Herald regarding cricket recognising Indigenous culture.

“What more is I’m not exactly sure, which is why we’ve got the Reconciliation Action Plan for Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia.

“People have put a lot of time and effort and work into those. It’s great to see there are these plans and these plans mean we’re going in the right direction.”

There can be no doubting the strength of Christian’s convictions after he took on Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this year.

The Prime Minister described Cricket Australia’s decision to drop Australia Day references for matches on January 26 as “pretty ordinary”, prompting Christian to tweet that Mr Morrison should “read the room.”

“There’ll be millions of kids watching our @BBL games on the 26th January, and they’ll see us taking a knee against racism, and promoting inclusion for all. Take note,” Christian wrote on social media.

He has always identified strongly with his heritage.

“That’s something that was always drummed into me as a kid,” Christian said. “I’ve always been proud of my Wiradjuri heritage, proud of my family and where they’re from (in southern central NSW).”

Christian is aware how significant taking a knee is for West Indian players.

Towering Caribbean all-rounder Carlos Braithwaite and Christian were teammates with the victorious Sydney Sixers last season.

“Carlos was really strong when he spoke to us,” Christian said. “We decided as a group to not only support him but add to it by acknowledging anyone who has been discriminated against in any walk of life.”

Teen NSW all-rounder Hannah Darlington (right) did not know about her Indigenous heritage until she was in high school.Credit:Getty

Darlington too took a knee with the Sydney Thunder in the WBBL.

“We got out barefoot circles and our Indigenous round to put a light on the Indigenous community so we were happy to take a knee,” Darlington said.

Darlington is a remarkable ambassador for one so young and has made an equally remarkable rise in her cricket career.

Two seasons ago the strong seamer was named the WBBL’s Rookie of the Tournament and last season she became the youngest player, male or female, to lead a NSW state side when she was made acting captain of the Breakers in the absence of Alyssa Healy.

Unlike Christian, Darlington grew up not knowing her Indigenous heritage and found out by accident when she was in high school.

“I saw a mate go up and play in the NICC (National Indigenous Cricket Championships) and the Imparja Cup in Alice Springs. I was annoyed because I couldn’t go and play cricket with her,” Darlington recalled.

“Dad said ‘you can actually go and play.’ It sparked a conversation within the family. I rang all the grandparents and wanted to know more.

“They grew up in an era where they really didn’t want to talk about it in a small country town (Barraba in northern NSW) being known as the Indigenous family.

“We wanted to change that as soon as I was happy to bring up the conversation. It was really cool to be able to go through that journey with dad and learn with him as well.”

Darlington is part of the group that spent months working through how Cricket NSW could develop a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) under the guidance of Reconciliation Australia, an official national body.

The RAP Program contributes to advancing reconciliation by supporting organisations to develop respectful relationships and create meaningful opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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