Maori players perform a traditional war cry during the NRL Indigenous All-Stars vs Maori All Stars match at AAMI Park, Melbourne last week. Picture: Daniel Pockett/AAP
Maori players perform a traditional war cry during the NRL Indigenous All-Stars vs Maori All Stars match at AAMI Park, Melbourne last week. Picture: Daniel Pockett/AAP

Australia may have changed but our anthem shouldn’t

When my class appeared in our high school concert, I was instructed by the teacher to mime the words and on no account to actually sing them.

This was due to having a voice that in full song had been unfavourably compared to the noise that a dog might make if it sat on a nail.

Accordingly, singing has never been one of my strengths although when sufficient red wine has been taken, I have been known to burst forth in a spontaneous rendition of Jimmy Barnes' 'Working Class Man'.

I'd be tempted, when similarly lubricated, to treat the neighbours to 'Advance Australia Fair' on Australia Day, but like almost every football player I've ever seen lined up before the television cameras prior to kick-off, I don't know the words.

Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker along with Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, however, have gone to the trouble of learning the words. We must, at least, presume that they have because they want our anthem changed.

Walker says 'Advance Australia Fair' doesn't represent him or his family, and he is not comfortable singing it, and Meninga wants a national vote, saying that since the anthem was officially adopted in 1984, times have changed.

Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker says the current Australian national anthem does not represent him or his family. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett
Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker says the current Australian national anthem does not represent him or his family. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett

"We've had major decisions around indigenous Australia, such as native title recognition and cultural heritage being revived," Meninga said.

What then, is offensive about the lyrics? Is it the reference to our country being "young and free"?

The Australia we know, the one you see when you look out the window, is young.

Indigenous people may have come here 50,000 years ago but the Australian nation is young. That's not being racist. That's the truth.

The opening line "Australians all let us rejoice" is surely inclusive and the lines "for those who've come across the seas we've boundless plains to share" can easily refer to the original inhabitants who came across from Africa and Asia, as well as later settlers from Europe.

If you look hard enough you can find a reason to be aggrieved by most things. It just depends on how determined you are to find something about which to complain.

Should people of Irish, Greek and Italian heritage, who have contributed so much to the prosperity of this country, complain because their contribution does not receive special mention in the anthem? Their silence would indicate that they regard themselves as included in "Australians let us all rejoice".

Gold Coast Titans coach Mal Meninga says things have changed since we adopted our anthem in 1984. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Gold Coast Titans coach Mal Meninga says things have changed since we adopted our anthem in 1984. Picture: AAP/Darren England

Meninga says things have changed since we adopted the song in 1984.

Britain's 'God Save the Queen' was declared the national anthem in 1745 under George II, and you could argue a few things have changed since then, but no one seems in a hurry to alter it.

France's 'La Marseillaise', arguably that most stirring of all national songs, was written in 1792 and 'The Star Spangled Banner' officially adopted by the US in 1931.

Anthems are not altered with national referendums held every time a particular group declares itself to feel.

At a game in Melbourne last week, the Indigenous All Stars stood in virtual silence as 'Advance Australia Fair' was played. They don't do themselves any favours by parading disrespect for their country.

It could be argued that the energies of those who would voice and parade their discomfort might well be better applied to addressing indigenous issues of drug and sexual abuse, health, education and parenting.

With courage let us all combine to Advance Australia Fair.

Mike O'Connor is a columnist for the Courier Mail.



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