In 2018 a nine-year old Brisbane student was disciplined for refusing to stand for the national anthem during assembly. Arguing against lunchtime detention, she said “When it says ‘we are young’ it completely disregards the Indigenous Australians who were here before us for over 50,000 years. When it was originally written, Advance Australia Fair meant advance the white people of Australia.”

Very true, but her public statement wasn’t written by a nine-year old, nor did she alone concoct the idea of staging a public protest on the issue. It’s all screams rainbow shades of Greta Thunberg, skipping class. No, her parents put her up to the publicity stunt. Her father, an Associate Professor in Psychology, glibly responded to criticism by saying his daughter was trying to “… raise awareness and get people thinking about institutionalised racism …” Whatever dude.

Leading the critics, ultra-conservative Senator Pauline Hanson said “Here we have a kid being brainwashed. I’d give her a kick up the backside. We’re talking about a child who has no idea about history — we are all Australians. This kid is headed down the wrong path, and I blame the parents for it for encouraging this.

It’s the first day of 2021, following a year we’d all like to forget. I read in today’s news that the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also held private misgivings “for some time” about the wording of the national anthem. She wants the phrase “for we are young and free” changed to acknowledge that our First Nations people are members of the most ancient living culture on Earth.

The Premier’s lightbulb moment came after high-profile Indigenous National Rugby League players chose to remain silent during the national anthem before State of Origin matches. This prompted the Australian Rugby League Commission to scrap the national anthem from their games. The predictable conservative backlash included our Prime Minister coercing the ARLC to reverse their decision. Which they did. Enter stage left the NSW Premier with her misgivings.

Well, ask and ye shall receive. Especially if it’s utterly meaningless. The Governor-General has now approved a change to the anthem, so that “we are young and free” now reads “we are one and free”. I don’t know how this acknowledges Aboriginal Australians 60,000 year custodianship of this country, so I’m reluctant to describe this as a win. Sheer tokenism, we can always pretend that this is significant.

Let’s stop dicking about. Let’s start down the road to independence by fixing the flag. Give the verse “beneath our radiant Southern Cross” some meaning by appointing our own President with all that entails. In 1999 the question was asked, conservatives crybabies clung fast to Empire’s apron-strings and held us to the obsequious status-quo. But that was 22 years ago. If bogan Aussies ‘patriots’ can proudly wear t-shirts which read “I grew here, you flew here” on Australia Day, why can’t they say the same thing to a foreign monarch?

Our ‘new’ anthem:

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are one and free;

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts Of beauty rich and rare;

In history’s page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross We’ll toil with hearts and hands;

To make this Commonwealth of ours Renowned of all the lands;

For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

Leave a Reply