Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre calls for formal apology after Scott Morrison's Australia Day comments

Protesters walk through the streets of Hobart at an Invasion Day rally in 2017.
Protesters walk through the streets of Hobart at an Invasion Day rally in 2017.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison should issue a formal apology after comparing the struggles of convicts to that of Indigenous Australians, says the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

Mr Morrison made the comments at a press conference on Thursday in response to questions about Cricket Australia removing references to Australia Day in the lead up to January 26 games.

He said Australia Day was about acknowledging how far the nation has come.

"When those 12 ships [sic] turned up in Sydney all those years ago it wasn't a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either," Mr Morrison said.

"But what this day demonstrates is how far we have come as a country and I think that's why it is important that we mark it in that way.

"It is not about that day so much it is about how far we have come together since that day. You can't just airbrush things that have happened in the past - I think one of the great things about Australia is we are pretty up front and honest about our past."

TAC campaign co-ordinator Nala Mansell said the comments were an absolute kick in the guts.

"We lost a whole country, our people continue to suffer to this day as result of the continued injustices committed against us, Scott Morrison should be ashamed of his attempt to downplay and overshadow the real problems of the Australia day celebrations," she said.

''While thousands of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in every state and territory of this country are preparing to protest against the divisive, racist and offensive meaning of the January 26th celebrations, the Prime Minister has proven he is completely out of touch with the rest of the country."

"We demand the Prime Minister offers a formal apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia for his hurtful and ignorant comments."

Labor and the Greens have also condemned the Prime Minister's comments with Greens First Nations spokeswoman Lidia Thorpe writing that January 26 is a Day of Mourning for First Nations people, in an op-ed published by The Guardian.

"As with Anzac Day, we also ask that all Australians join us in acknowledging 26 January as a day of respectful reflection and mourning for those who died fighting for Country," she wrote.

Federal Labor's Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney said the Prime Minister's comments make no sense.

"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?," she said.

"Suffering is not a competition. What the Prime Minister has said makes no sense."


In response to a question about he made yesterday, at a press conference this morning, Mr Morrison said it was wrong to imply that he was drawing an equivalence between the experience of convicts and First Nations people.

"Australia is more than 25 million stories, more than 25 million. And each of us here can trace our own stories back into our experience in Australia, Indigenous Australians, First Nations people also, all the stories are important," he said.

"All the stories should be respected. And on Australia Day, that's an opportunity to do that, understanding the loss, the gains, the successes, the failures, the hardships that were encountered.

"I mean, Australian stories are unique in this country. And, but the thing that I celebrate most about Australians, despite the hardship whether that be that of dispossession, and the terrible disease and destruction that was faced by First Nations peoples, or whether it's the convicts who came or the settlers that followed, the immigrant waves that come over the course of our nation's history, all of those stories are important. They're not competing with each other. They're just part of who we are."

This story Call for formal apology after Prime Minister's Australia Day comments first appeared on The Examiner.