Controversy has arisen surrounding Channel 7, Australia’s official free-to-air broadcaster of the FIFA Women’s World Cup after commentators spoke over the top of a Welcome to Country during the opening fixture of the tournament.
During the opening match ceremony in Sydney on July 20, ahead of the Matildas’ match against Ireland, Dharug Elder Aunty Julie Jones delivered a Welcome to Country speech while accompanied by Jannawi Dance Clan dancers.
However, three Channel 7 presenters talked over the performance during the live broadcast of the ceremony, causing Aunty Julie to express disappointment to NITV that Channel 7 “silenced the voices and the storytelling of women that have been a part of the oldest living culture on the planet”.
“We were just in shock at first I think because we’re telling the girls this is going to be seen around the world,” she continued.
“The only opportunity for these children’s families to see them was that free to air broadcast.
“It was culturally devastating because generally, we take our responsibility and obligations not just to each other on Country, but to everyone on our Country seriously.”
The Director of Jannawi Dance Clan, Peta Strachan, expressed her disappointment that the presenters spoke over Aunty Julie while she was delivering her speech, stating that four months of planning went into the performance.
“I think the most heartbreaking part was (the commentators) said how important the Welcome to Country is, but meanwhile they’re talking over Julie … and then they cut to an ad about deodorant,” she said.
“We had new costumes made for the girls… the amount of props and costumes and rehearsals that went into this was huge.
“I felt really ripped off. We’re supposed to be feeling really good and we should be celebrating but so many people were just really disappointed.”
Online, the blunder was described as “pretty ordinary” and “appalling optics”.
“Pretty ordinary of Channel 7 to leave out the Welcome to Country as we host the Women’s World Cup,” one viewer wrote.
“Optus showed it. Apparently it was more important to continually have commentators talking pre game.”
Another added “Hey channel 7 – references to about how “cultural” and “inclusive” the cup is – but you didn’t televise the welcome to country or the Māori elder – why was that?”
The incident came on the same night Channel 7 commentator David Basheer was criticised for a comment about motherhood during his call of Australia’s 1-0 win over Ireland.
One of the Matildas’ greatest-ever players, Heather Garriock, criticised Basheer, who said that motherhood had not “blunted” star Aussie Katrina Gorry’s “competitive instincts”.
Garriock, who has three children, was one of many fans and ex-players who were aghast at Basheer’s comment during the Matildas’ win.
Gorry, who was the best player for Australia in the tournament opener, gave birth to daughter Harper in August 2021 via IVF, missing the Olympics to do so.
Garriock expressed her frustration with the continued conversation about motherhood and sports, telling Optus Sport, “It’s not a conversation anymore. We need to stop talking about it”.
Gorry has since insisted she didn’t take Basheer’s comment personally.
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