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Scott Morrison said January 26 “wasn’t a particularly flash day” for those aboard the First Fleet as he defended Australia Day celebrations, amid public debate over the holiday being insensitive to Indigenous Australians.

The prime minister said the holiday was an important marker of Australia’s history during an appearance in Gladstone, north of Brisbane, and maintained it should not be changed despite it being seen as a day of mourning by many First Nations people.

“You know, when those 12 ships 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 today.

READ MORE: Australia Day 2021: What you can and can’t do

He said the public holiday was not about the day the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay in 1788, but about “how far we’ve come together since that day”.

“You can’t just airbrush things that have happened in the past,” he said.

“We are pretty up front about our past and the national apologies that have been put in place shows we are prepared to deal with our past.

“But more importantly we do not allow it to get in the way of our future.”

Protests have been planned around much of the country, with some banned due to coronavirus restrictions.

There are calls to change the date of Australia Day, while others argue it should be abolished entirely.

Alex Hales

Mr Morrison also today weighed in on Cricket Australia’s decision to remove “Australia Day” references from three Big Bash League games to be held on January 26.

The teams will wear Indigenous art-inspired jerseys, with Sydney Thunder star Brendan Doggett, a proud descendent of the Worimi people from northern NSW, saying he hoped it sparked conversation among fans and helped the country move forward.

Mr Morrison, however, labelled the decision by Cricket Australia “ordinary”.

“I think a bit more focus on cricket, and a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he told radio 4RO.

“I think that’s pretty ordinary – that’s what they’re putting on their press releases – that would be my view.”