• Hannah Ferguson

Bigotry is the heartbeat of January 26

If Australia hopes to define itself as a nation of accepting, tolerant and welcoming people, we are failing.

We have chosen a day of patriotic celebration to be the anniversary of the mass murder of the original custodians of our land, and we are now also bestowing our highest honours to one of the most intolerant in our ranks.

It is a disgrace.

Margaret Court was an exceptional tennis player, holding a record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, putting her ahead of Serena Williams by one. Following these victories, the Australian Open venue was named Margaret Court Arena.

Margaret Court is now 78, and a Pentecostal minister in Perth. In recent years she has, unfortunately, retained a position in the spotlight due to her deeply prejudicial views toward the LGBTQI+ community.

Margaret publicly opposes same-sex marriage, has previously demonised transgender athletes and has also managed to state that classes and educational lessons surrounding LGBTIQ+ people are (and yes, this is true) 'of the devil'. But her track record for being an absolute parasite of a person does not stop there.

Court penned a letter to a newspaper in 2013 which attempted to undermine and criticise the birth of an Australian tennis players child, a child being raised by a same-sex couple. The letter stated:

"Personally, I have nothing against Casey Dellacqua or her "partner"...It is with sadness that I see this baby has seemingly been deprived of his father.”

It is also important to note that Court's views extend beyond this vitriol, with her publicly refusing to fly with QANTAS, following their support of same-sex marriage, prior to the plebiscite which led to the legalisation of gay marriage in Australia.

On Friday information was leaked that in the upcoming January 26th Invasion Day awards ceremony, Court will be awarded with Australia's highest honour, a Companion of the Order of Australia (note: Court was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007).

Both the Western Australia and Victorian Premiers have criticised the move.

Quite simply, enough is enough.

I refuse to accept that this award is anything other than a political statement. The Australia Day honours have a history that is deeply rooted in supporting and continuing to idolise the rich, the powerful and the conservative. This stance is yet another nail in the coffin for Australia's reputation, a reputation that seems to erode further and further around this time each year.

Margaret Court is not an honourable member of our society. The pedestal that these systems place her on communicates a corrosive view of the LGBTQI+ community, a marginalised group we as a nation should be actively trying to protect.

Margaret Court's legacy is one of alienation and division. To honour her is a statement to the world, that Australia supports and prioritises her ability to hit a ball over a net, before it defends the rights, the honour and the humanity of our own people.

To those that argue her tennis should be celebrated and that her freedom of speech should be protected. You disgust me. Free speech and hate speech are not synonymous. To argue that Court's views in the public arena are perfectly acceptable are ignorant to the current state of the law. Australia does not have freedom of speech in any constitutional or statutory authority. Court's language is unacceptable in every foreseeable way, and as hate speech, would not be protected under the law.

We cannot separate her vitriol from her grand slams. Her active promotion of hatred is not severable, her views and successes are not mutually exclusive. The sheer occurrence of patriotic promotion and celebration on the anniversary of invasion is repulsive and yet, this institution of prejudice goes on to promote and reward the successes of elite, ignorant white people on a day defined by intergenerational trauma.

Bigotry is the heartbeat of January 26.