So I’m going to come out and say it – our current National anthem makes me uncomfortable. So if this makes you angry, and you don’t want to know why, stop reading. Go and make a cup of tea and look at Buzzfeed, or something like that.
I am not Indigenous, but I work with a lot of children who are. And many of them have been told by their families not to sing ‘Advance Australia Fair’. For a number of reasons. The ‘young’ part. The ‘free’ part. The ‘wealth for toil’ part. Senator Briggs says things very well here… It’s hard to talk to a child about this who is obviously conflicted – their school is wanting them to sing it, and their family is saying it’s wrong. So what do they do? (And why should they be put in that position anyway?) I am also uncomfortable with the line in the second verse about ‘We’ve boundless plains to share’. If we have, why is our refugee policy the way it currently is?
I’ve tried to change things as much as I can in the schools I’m in, introducing a first verse in Sydney Eora language, and creating a backing track that is good to sing with. But the song is awkward to sing as well – lots of jumps, and a big range. It’s not my favourite musical thing to sing either.
Why am I reflecting on this at the moment?
You see, I am going to teach a version of ‘We are Australian’ to a large group of children I see regularly. We’re going to sing the chorus first in an Indigenous language (one from Broome. Kids love singing in languages, and it’s a fabulous, fabulous learning tool.), and then in English. It’s a great song – really singable. The verses are really well written – they cover so many things carefully and respectfully. And what a great sentiment. I am. You are. We are Australian. All of us. We’re all here, and living together.
So why are we sticking with a song that makes people uncomfortable and angry? A song that was only decided on in 1984? A song that’s difficult to sing? I shake my head, you know. And I continue to sit and wonder.