“Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free…
My people die young in this country. We die 10 years younger than the average Australian, and we are far from free.”
That line from Stan Grant’s 2016 IQ2 Racism Debate perfectly encapsulates the problematic nature of our national anthem. This song, which is meant to be reflective of the nation we call Australia, has not stood the test of the ever-changing face of our society, and it certainly has never acknowledged the true story or presence of its First People.
As a proud Kamilaroi and Dunghutti woman, I stopped singing the national anthem in high school. Growing up and learning of the ways the systems in power in this country continue to exclude and discriminate against my people, I found Advance Australia Fair went from sounding like old-fashioned, emotionless droning, to a rhythmic collection of lies.
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The Australia me and my family, and all the Indigenous mob across the continent live in, sees us as young, but far from free. For as long as our young people are more likely to see the inside of a gaol cell than a university campus; for as long as they feel so hopeless and alone that they choose to take their own lives as barely teenagers and for as long as we are not recognised in the founding document of this country, our constitution, we are not free to enjoy the possibilities that are provided to so many other Australians.
Growing up where I did, a place with an overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon population and facing the push back and ignorance of peers and teachers alike throughout my schooling, not singing the anthem was the safest and most comfortable way I could maintain my integrity and represent my people’s truth, during a school assembly or similar event.
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This act of not participating is not new – not even in the realm of the NRL – former league player turned writer and mental health activist Joe Williams was protesting the anthem back in 2007, when he stood away from his team mates as it was played before a game.