I’m slightly suspicious about the motivation for a year 4 student to make an issue of not standing or singing Advance Australia Fair at school assembly. Her main objection, or that of her parents, appears to be that the national anthem “completely disregards Indigenous Australians.” 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.”
The Year 4 student said the decision to take a stand was made “mostly” by herself but the subject had been discussed with her parents. Piffle ! I would suggest that her parents had a lot to do with this and that they provoked the school into giving her lunch time detention on Friday for her protest.
The school has noted that it already provides alternatives for students other than attending assembly and singing the national anthem based on sincerely held conscientious objections. Several religions object to saluting a national flag, singing a national anthem or other such demonstrations of nationalism ; notably the Jehovah Witnesses. It seems that the school were quite prepared to excuse a child from assembly based on conscientious grounds and that a polite letter from the parents to the Head would have facilitated this without the national media hoo-hah that inevitably followed her public protest.
Whether the song itself is suitable is a moot point and many of us would agree that Advance Australia Fair as a national song is a shocker but at least the original lyrics were changed before it was officially adopted in 1974 by the Whitlam government : incidentally, Whitlam was sacked by Sir John Kerr the following year – coincidence ? – I don’t think so !
Did you know, for instance, that the second verse was originally :
When gallant Cook from Albion sailed,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Til he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
“With all her faults we love her still”
“Britannia rules the wave.”
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.
Good grief ! That’s enough to get up the nose of any year 4 student and could probably raise the ire of toddlers across the nation.
An then you have this:
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share
Well, not quite, but you can see the problem, how can you get this to scan :
For those who’ve come across the seas – We’ll lock ’em up on Manus !
The whole thing is an absolute shemozzle but I note that the NRL have compromised with their players and before any grand-final they substitute the official lyrics with rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb sung in a mumbling sotto voce and whilst that may be a solution for the footie, I don’t think you can apply it satisfactorily to school assemblies.
Definitely, we need to change this national anthem to something more acceptable to our primary students and to the kindergartens of Australia who are after all incubating the future citizens of this nation.
We demand another postal plebiscite, Scott Morrison and we’ll stamp our feet and hold our breath until we get one !
Personally I’m voting with Men at Work :
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover, yeah