It’s time to advance unfair Australia – and ditch the anthem that fails to acknowledge our First Peoples.
For many non-Indigenous Australians, growing up with the national anthem meant some old-timey language sung without question. But a recent proposal by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has got Canberra buzzing – and kickstarted a dialogue across the country.
Composer Peter Dodds McCormick’s 1878 ode to his adoptive homeland was popular with his colonial contemporaries – those, like Dodds McCormick himself, who’d “come across the seas”.
But when it comes to recognising the oldest continuing culture in the world? Advance Australia Fair falls very, very short.
Are we ‘young and free’?
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free.
– Peter Dodds McCormick, Advance Australia Fair
It’s the word ‘young’ in the above that has inspired Gladys Berejiklian’s proposal. In this context, the word is a reference to the short period of time that European settlers have been in this country, the not-quite-120 years since Federation.
But when you’re talking about the country that’s home to a culture some 100,000+ years in the making – a culture that wasn’t even acknowledged in 1878 when the lyrics were penned – ‘young’ is exposed for what it is: a slap in the face.
‘Absurd’ and irrelevant
The lyric – or indeed the anthem itself – is not something that resonates with Evolve Co-Director and Bardi Elder Aunty Munya Andrews.
“To me, promoting youth over the wisdom of Elders is obnoxious, and telling people who are locked up in jails that they are ‘free’ is absurd,” she explains. “What does being ‘young’ and ‘free’ mean anyway?”
Co-Director Carla Rogers also struggles to identify with the song. Despite a lifelong love of singing, she notes that any situation requiring her to sing Advance Australia Fair has left her feeling less joyful, more strained.
“From my earliest memory – early Primary I think – I recall feeling less than enthusiastic, definitely uncomfortable and even embarrassed about singing the anthem … it’s like the anthem is someone that you are expected to respect and uphold, but it represents so much that goes against your values.”
The song clearly has some flaws – and they’re not going unnoticed by the wider community, either. At the time of writing, an online poll by SBS showed that 86% of respondents were in favour of Berejiklian’s change.