Many of us greeted 2021 with the news that Scott Morrison has changed a single word in the Australian Anthem - to make it more inclusive. Now many Aussies are asking if he has actually listened to us? Has he taken on board a single voice outside his network of privileged colonialism?
This man who thinks of himself as a conservative has just upset both the left and right of the political spectrum, by officially adopting to change the word young to one in the second line.
The anthem was written by Peter Dodds McCormick and was first performed in 1878. Much has changed in the centuries since - including the fact that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are no longer allowed to be killed by acts of genocide… Well not in such a blatant term, but that’s a larger topic for another day...
I’d like to start at the beginning of the song & explain how this is an anthem for genocide & slavery - as that was the source of ‘labour’ in this country; genocide was the “birth control choice” used against the oldest living culture known to man! But let’s go line by line so we can really understand the implications as they are seen by the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders today. But don’t worry I will only focus on the first part - I doubt many know those words let alone the second verse!
Australians all let us rejoice. For we are young (now one) and free
We are not free - we are the most imprisoned race in the world - including in the USA, our children as young as 10 are at times the only race imprisoned on various occasions in the NT! We are not free to develop our traditional lands - there are laws that prevent us from building anything without jumping through government hoops! We are not even free to retain our cultural heritage - it gets cut down or blown up constantly unlike the cultural heritage belonging to the colonial lifespan of this country. Nor are we even free to raise our children in this country - as we also have the highest statistics for removal of children from our custody.
But even the current change to the word one - has Australia EVER been one? The colonisers drew a line in the dirt & we have never been allowed to cross it; now we are to believe that because a politician said so we are one…. Life doesn’t work like that, especially when that same person has failed to acknowledge the true history of our people!
Because we all know there are thousands of people who will not accept the change to young - but this country isn’t young either - we have the oldest living culture on earth, 75000 years in some places. And our oral histories remember that far back, we record the mega fauna in ours, pity the colonisers memories can’t span back a couple of hundred years to recall the slavery & acts of genocide felt at their hands; some can’t even span back a few decades!
We've golden soil and wealth for toil.
Well to start off here - the gold rushes didn’t mean we have golden soils…. They’re mostly red actually! Time for some truth there please. And wealth for toil? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders live in poverty, less than third world conditions in a first world country. How is that wealth for toil? We have communities without running water, some without power and yet we have wealth for toil? Is that to throw at the politicians for their pensions & all office/ travel costs or whatever else deemed appropriate by those who will eventually gain those exact benefits for themselves? That has to be the riches they sing of…. It’s not seen by the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People that’s for sure!
Our home is girt by sea.
Yeah that would be true, but how many of us actually 1, understood that word until they were well into adulthood & had to ask someone or 2, use that word in general conversation for anything other than to reference the anthem?
Our land abounds in nature's gifts. Of beauty, rich and rare
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders have always had a connection to the gifts of nature - sadly the colonial reverence is purely in how much money can be made from them. How many more plants & animals need to be placed on threatened/endangered species lists before that which truly is rare is saved for the future generations? Do we want to only see Platypus in photos or Koalas in zoos?
In history's page let every stage. Advance Australia fair. In joyful strains then let us sing
Scott Morrisson upset a lot of people on Christmas Day when they listened to him say we have more to be thankful then sorrowful about - has he not seen the Aboriginal communities of this country? Places like Laramba that have higher than accepted levels of uranium in their drinking water? What about people in Yolgnu who are being forced to leave their lands or live in housing where electricity can be felt through the walls, of properties that haven’t been properly maintained since they were built in the 70’s. What about the people who have just been forced to extend the Cashless Debit Card trial for another two years - do they really have more to be happy about when they can’t even buy food for their families?
Advance Australia fair. Beneath our radiant Southern Cross. We'll toil with hearts and hands.
The Southern Cross is not the most prominent and for many Aboriginal Nations not the most important constellation in the sky, it is the most used to label Aussies as Australian though.
To make this Commonwealth of ours. Renowned of all the lands.
The Commonwealth after almost 250 years still doesn’t have a SINGLE treaty with any of the 500+ Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Nations, how can the Commonwealth wipe out the First countries that existed? They have absolutely no legal standing to do so; especially since in 1992 the High Court overturned the legal doctrine of Terra Nullius; the term Colonisers used to get away with their illegal occupation. Considering nothing has changed, really this government is still considered an illegal occupation by so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We never ceded sovereignty - heard that line before? Yeah I bet!
For those who've across the seas. We've boundless plains to share. With courage let us all combine.
Australia is widely considered one of the most racist countries in the world, how do we come together when that is what those from across the seas are sure to face? We have marches to stop muslims or those just from the Middle East in general because they are terrorists??? We have had many Chinese people speak out since covid - and if Aussies really cared to look they would see the experiences of the Chinese people here in Australia in the past year has been an experience of racism, targeted from many sides! And of course the Aboriginal People have been racially profiled since the arrival of Cook, when we were termed savages and then deemed to not even be people until the late 60’s.
To advance Australia fair. In joyful strains then let us sing. Advance Australia fair
To finish I want to address the very last line - Advance Australia fair - yes I can agree let’s advance this country. But “Australia fair”? Not all that much from our perspectives that is fair for us. We are constantly accused of getting special preference/treatment etc. But special treatment is living in a place of your own making & not having to scrape the bottom of society for your entire life.
Remember when this ‘song’ was penned - Australia was still performing acts of slavery & genocide, for thousands of years; even though the British Empire had outlawed slavery they did it here anyway! That is what this song represents to us - slavery and genocide. Not something that makes our peoples proud, why does it make yours so proud?