Latrell Mitchell leads the Indigenous All Stars in a war cry prior to last year's All Stars match. Picture: Mike Owen/Getty Images
Latrell Mitchell leads the Indigenous All Stars in a war cry prior to last year's All Stars match. Picture: Mike Owen/Getty Images

Anthem must unite Australia, not divide it

THERE will be no Australian anthem played at the All Stars rugby league game, but that would not be the case if The Seekers' I Am Australian was our national song.

Watching Delta Goodrem get stirring back-up vocals from 75,000 fans at the Fire Fight Australia concert last weekend reinforced the fact that I Am Australian is a uniting force.

By contrast, in a recent column, I spotlighted the concern All Stars godfather Preston Campbell had over Advance Australia Fair.

"We think about our old people and the struggles they had, and when you think about the first couple of lines - 'Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free' - for a lot of our communities they don't feel like they are free,'' Campbell said.

"We have been around for 60,000-plus years, so obviously we are not so young either''.

These are fair observations and reasons why Advance Australia Fair, which makes no mention of Australia's indigenous heritage, has gained quiet objection over a number of years from a number of Australia's indigenous stars, until the point where it will not be played at the All Stars' game after a request from the team was upheld.

Another line in Advance Australia Fair - "For those who've come across the seas'' - is a nod to the colonial settlers, but those who settled here tens and thousands of years ago get no mention.

In contrast, I Am Australian's opening line is "I come from the dream time, from the dusty red soil plains'' and drifts seamlessly through convict settlements, depressions, droughts, floods, bushrangers, wars and Albert Namatjira.

It's a proud yet somehow unpretentious piece that casts a wide net.

Some suggest it sounds too much like a pop song to be an anthem - fair point - but it certainly has a lot going for it.

The anthem is meant to unite, not divide. Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images
The anthem is meant to unite, not divide. Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

In my last column we held a poll asking readers whether the anthem should be changed - 56 per cent said no, 44 per cent voted yes.

Interestingly, in a separate poll in the story, 41 per cent of readers said their preferred choice was I Am Australian, followed by Advance Australia Fair (31 per cent), Advance Australia Fair with altered lyrics (12 per cent) and Waltzing Matilda (5 per cent).

The reader response was typically passionate - as anthem debates tend to be - but mixed.

John said: "I call BS, Crash. Why should, once again, a minority drive a change just because they protest? Surely, in the interests of genuine reconciliation, it is about time we ask reasonable behaviour of those who disagree by having them accept the intent of the lyrics in the national anthem, rather than look for the worst.''

The All Stars game has returned to the Gold Coast. Picture: Darren England/AAP
The All Stars game has returned to the Gold Coast. Picture: Darren England/AAP

Robert spoke for many when he said: "The music tune of Advance Australia Fair is OK, just change those words about the hopes of UK settlers, to what we are now and will be wanting to be in 100 years' time.''

Brad reckoned it was time to start all over.

"I would prefer the commissioning of a new anthem that conveys a more inclusive reflection of the past, strength and pride in the present, hope and vision for the future. Perhaps the NZ anthem would be a good model to start with.''

Indeed it would.

The Kiwi anthem may have been written in the 1870s but it has timeless appeal and starts with the first chorus in Maori, meaning it is embraced by all cultures as an anthem should be.

GOOD

The buzz around the opening of the Cowboys' new stadium in Townsville. From the cleverly constructed Johnathan Thurston statue of him kicking the premiership-winning field goal, to the fact that Townsville hotels are all booked out for the opening match against the Broncos. A wonderful vibe is in the air. Long may it continue.

BAD

The desperate plight of many of our Olympic athletes as they survive on meagre rations in the lead-up to this year's Tokyo Games.

UGLY

The potential impact of the coronavirus on the Games. Olympic officials are playing it down because they have to. There is no Plan B.

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