Ever since Peter Dodds McCormick, composed ‘Advance Australia fair’ and it was first performed in Sydney on Saint Andrew’s Day, 1878. there was no mention of Indigenous Australians. Feeling disregarded or erased from the pages of Australian history, Indigenous Australians have opposed the National Anthem over the past decades. Many non-Indigenous Australians are still upset or offended by such a notion by Indigenous people today. Those who concur with and support the Indigenous notion are criticized and labeled for looking beyond the level of understanding Australia’s foundation that has been imbued for 230 years. Opposing the “National Song”, is viewed by some as also being disrespectful to Australian veterans, however, Advance Australia Fair omits Indigenous history from the start to finish of the song, the history of a people and country every Veteran in Australia fought for.

 “The foundation of Australia was built off the backs of Indigenous people”

Advance Australia fair omits the history of Indigenous contribution to the foundation of Australia. The song allows Australia to ignore the Indigenous place in Australian history they so rightfully deserve. Many non-indigenous Australian brothers and sisters seem not yet willing to listen and share the whole story of Australia, one which includes the Indigenous people. The conversation on ‘Advance Australia Fair’ as the National Anthem should have been settled decades ago. The continuous denial of Indigenous people in Australian history questions the honesty in the focal view of moving forward together as “Australians”, and just how many people on the street actually value another as an “Australian” brother or sister today.

Noting just the verse first of ‘Advance Australia Fair’, there is no significant reference to Indigenous Australians for us to sing about, that is really a part of Australian history and pride:

Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free

We are not young! 

We are ancient, we are the world’s oldest civilization, “The Original Australians” This being the subject of “history”  the Original Australians hold the longest length of recorded history on the earth. Our recordings not only re-write Australian history but also “world history”.

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We are not all free! 

Freedom [generally, is having an ability to act or change without constraint. A thing is “free” if it can change its state easily and is not constrained in its present]

Indigenous Australians are certainly not free. Still living in conditions of poverty, early death, abuse, etc, still having their lives governed and their values, interests, and principles overruled.  

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Homelessness, unemployment and modern-day slavery, are examples of this lack of freedom, young Indigenous men in Australia have the ‘highest suicide rates in the world’, Mental health disorders are four to seven times more common in Indigenous adults than non-Indigenous. “We’re not faking, We’re dying” was a slogan about the shameful failure on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. 

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Not commonly noted is the mental health of an individual or group when there is an Indigenous death in the community.

  • Indigenous Australians represent 3% of the population.
  • Indigenous people will attend at least (2) or more funerals a year.
    (Funerals they do not attend, are because of travel or money-related reasons. Most simply cannot afford to fly, drive, travel, etc that many times in one year)
  •  Members of the Indigenous community attend as many as (10) funerals each year. (They also have commitments to family and country and some families or individuals can be very pressured mentally when not being able to attend)
  • More Indigenous youth die before their parents do. Indigenous parents bury their children at much greater rates than non-indigenous Australians.

Many Australians avoid looking at all the factors that contribute to mental health abuse and other Indigenous issues, many are guided by politically motivated agendas?

Indigenous children are “still” being removed at high rates, while certain politicians cherry pick or distort the facts on the matter. The effects can be devastating to any parent and families metal health when losing a child.

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We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil, our home is girt by sea

Slavery funded the building of Australia, and the wealth for the toil of our golden soil was not shared with Indigenous Australians who worked under slave conditions to help build every major industry in this country alongside the first settlers for free.

In an article from the Sydney Morning Herald in April 2015 headed “Australia needs to own up to its slave history”  Hollywood movie star Ben Affleck’s participation in an ancestry study was highlighted. The results shocked Affleck, finding out his ancestors were slave owners. Feeling ashamed and embarrassed, Affleck went to extents to hide the newly found information. The article went on to highlight the Industries in Australia worked by Indigenous Australians under slave conditions. The historical work that Indigenous people did that actually shaped the very Australia we have today. Every major Industry in this country was built and worked with Indigenous hands – Sugar, Beef, Cotton, Gold, Railways, Trade, Economy, etc. The Indigenous contribution behind the major industries of his country is still not of any main focus or contained in the many views of those who speak of recognizing Indigenous contribution in Australia’s foundation and the true history of Australia today.

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slave work

This time last year Indigenous contribution was not listed on any major industries website fact sheet. Someone who reads and learns about Australia’s history, I questioned Cotton Australia, on why Indigenous Australians were not listed on the Cotton History Fact Sheet when Indigenous people helped start the cotton industry in Australia.

[Fact: When slavery was abolished in America it was Australia who picked up the cotton trade to the world, it was Indigenous workers who were used to build and work the cotton right from the start] 

After their next board meeting and my point had been raised, Cotton Australia had things slightly changed on the fact sheet, leading to a slight reference of Indigenous Australia. The reference now included in the Fact Sheet is a small gesture, but action towards recognizing Indigenous contribution in Australia’s history.

One great social and economical example of Indigenous contribution in our country’s history that stands out and should be noted is the history of Victoria. Indigenous people made a significant contribution to the early economy of Victoria in the 1800s, with canoes being used as transport to help the new European arrivals. “Victorian History floats on aboriginal Stringy Bark Canoes across flooded rivers”

” There weren’t any bridges across rivers — rivers flooded and Europeans and new migrants to Victoria didn’t often know how to swim”

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare

Quite ignorant or contradicting today singing about the rich and rare beauty of our nature’s gifts while we are failing to remove ourselves from the top worst extinction rates of flora and fauna in the world in just 200 years. Including the worst mammal extinctions on the planet. The Comparison of protected area in Australia based on population and population density compared to other countries around the world is a truthful guide to the protection of the beauty and rareness we all sing about.

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Read more here >https://wilderness.org.au/articles/australias-biodiversity-summary

The Original Australians and their culture, have protected this land for tens of thousands of years, Their sacred sites are destroyed today, many times on purpose. Some of these sites are evidence of the oldest human presence on earth.

The Original Lore, that also protects sacred sites that were given to Indigenous people long before European arrival, is challenged. Indigenous culture has been pushed aside as just myth and superstition. A lot of times the culture is mocked, ignored or simply treated like rubbish to be thrown in the bin.

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In history’s page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair

If the pages of history advance Australia, then why is there such a War on the Indigenous pages and stages?

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair

How can Indigenous Australians be expected to rejoice and sing a song that erases their participation and contribution to advance Australia?

“It seems asking to put a few strokes of color on what is essentially today a white canvas, is a forbidden action, and one not relevant to Australian history”

A strong statement. An Honest and truthful view that many non-indigenous Australians agree on, Those who wish to share an Australian history that includes Indigenous contribution to the foundation and National song. Future Australian and truth speaker 9-year old ‘Harper Neilsen’, took a stand last month and made a statement that many Australians agree with, “The song disregards Indigenous Australians, it was originally written to advance the white people”

Those who spoke out against Harper were again those who only imbue other Australians with a certain level of understanding the history of Australia’s foundation. Harper was labelled a ‘brat’ who needs a kick up the backside, and her parents criticized for promoting ‘rubbish’, or instilling their own political views in the mind of their child.

Harper said: “It took me quite a while before I decided not to stand for the national anthem at school. I started talking with my family about the anthem, and the words in it. We talked about what it might mean to different people, and I started to feel as if Indigenous Australians were being ignored”

The intelligence of humans today has excelled. Of course, parents guide the subject matter, but there is no reason for a child at 9 years old today, to not be smarter by adaptation and a more formal way of learning then 100 years ago. Psychology today states rise in I.Q test scores of 3 points every decade. We are mentally adapted to a far more complicated world today than in 1900. Formal schooling has led to gains in vocabulary and general information. Also, today’s computers, phones, television allow access to information so much quicker. Our ability to attack a wider range of conceptual problems has improved immensely.  Young Harper is showing us this change and just how fast the children of today learn and adapt. With the criminal responsibility of children expected at 10 years old in Australia, how can Harper’s honest opinion be one that is only influenced and meaningless? This young Australian has a right to her opinion.

Indigenous Veterans had no say over the National Anthem and no say over the atrocities still being committed to their people while they fought for Australia.

Opposing the National Anthem is seen by some as being disrespectful to Australian Veterans. But many would agree, to oppose the Anthem also represents Indigenous veterans with the same pride in the values of being an Australian they fought for. [The freedom of their children, and the sharing in this country’s history] Indigenous soldiers had no choice in the national song sung back decades, either did their non-Indigenous comrade’s.

God save the Queen” (King) was the national anthem of Australia from 1788 – 1974. It was not until 1984 we had ‘Advance Australia Fair’ become the official National Anthem, also seeing a few lines in the song adjusted.  The major reason being is that it disregarded Australian women from the song. The representation it holds for Indigenous Australian’s was one disregarded and avoided from the start, also one without choice. It has since been a topic of silence, or a one-sided story heard from politicians and media. If the song was adjusted in the past to include women, what is stopping it from being adjusted today to include the Original people of Australia?

In February 1974 the Whitlam Government, through the Australian Bureau of Statistics, held a public opinion poll to determine the popularity of the three ‘unofficial’ Australian songs: Advance Australia FairWaltzing Matilda and Song of Australia.

  • In 1974 The Bureau of statistics polled just 60,000 people of an Australian population of 13 million and around half that 60,000 chose Advance Australia Fair as the national anthem over Waltzing Matilda and Song of Australia.
  • In 1974 the Indigenous Australian population was around 140,000.

With such a small representation in the population in 1974, it is clear that the original people had little to no effect on these decisions,” if any were handed a ballet at all”? It was only seven years earlier that Indigenous Australian were recognized as human beings. 

The Frazer government reinstated ‘God save the Queen’ as the Anthem in 1976, but also was determined to find a National Anthem for Australia after a debate in 1976 about a national song to represent Australia at the Montreal Olympics. A more extensive poll for a national song was conducted in May 1977. Again, Advance Australia Fair was the preferred song, followed by “Waltzing Matilda”, “God Save the Queen” and “Song of Australia”. It was not until 1984 we had ‘Advance Australia Fair’ become the official Anthem after ‘God save the Queen’ was made the official Royal Anthem to be played when the Australian monarch or a member of the Royal Family is present by Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen.

  • Over 7 million of the 8.4 million people on the electoral roll chose to vote in 1977 out of a population of 14 million. 
  • In 1977 the Indigenous Australian population was around 160,000.

Being within the same decade as the referendum, Indigenous Australians had no significant strength in the first or second votes for a National Anthem. With a population of only 3% today they hold no significant strength in votes or survey outcomes conducted on the entire population. The majority of support on issues concerning Indigenous people today comes from the many other Australian brothers and sisters who want Indigenous people recognized in Australian history and also the national song.

Indigenous Veterans were not allowed to enter the military service. Many Indigenous Australians had to hide, ‘lie’ about their Indigenous heritage just to be allowed to defend their country. As few would sneak through because of certain circumstances, others would pretend they were Sri-Lankan, Indian, etc.

[The Defence Act of 1903 stated that all males aged from 12 to 25 would receive military training; as Aboriginal Australians were not of European descent, they were exempt from military service. (It was not until 1949 that all restrictions were lifted, enabling Indigenous Australians to join the Australian military forces]Australian War Memorial – Aboriginal service during the First World War.

Many who returned home from fighting in histories early wars abroad, came home to find their people still being murdered and children being taken. Only highlighted recently, and still not fully recognized, our Indigenous Australian Veterans held key positions and made major accomplishments in the military services of Australia. The Indigenous population today are the children of those Veterans who fought with pride to be recognized as Australians. Those Indigenous servicemen and women fought for the future of their country, children, and culture. That should also include their ancestors being mentioned in the country’s national song.

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defending country

It is clear that there is still insecurity or fear still in many present-day ‘Australians’. This constant linger in avoiding the recognition of Indigenous contribution to the foundation of Australia should have deteriorated long ago. “Sorry” Is not just a word you can throw around.

Gough Whitlam pushed to have a song that represented Australia with “distinction”  In 1973, he dedicated an entire Australia Day speech to the search for a new anthem saying that it will be a “symbolic expression of our national pride and dignity”

What highlights this symbolic expression for Original Australians? What pride and dignity should they have in a song that does not include them?

Noting why Peter McCormick wrote Advance Australia Fair, what is so wrong in Indigenous Australians today questioning and wanting the exact same thing he did?

“One night I attended a great concert in the Exhibition Building when all the National Anthems of the world were to be sung by a large choir with band accompaniment. This was very nicely done, but I felt very aggravated that there was not one note for Australia. On the way home in a bus, I concocted the first verse of my song & when I got home I set it to music” Peter Dodds McCormick

What are Indigenous Australians asking for?

Indigenous Australians are asking our non Indigenous Australian brothers and sisters to learn more about the “contributing “facts” of Indigenous issues today. Just learning a “cherry picked fact” used as a daily news headline by politically motivated media will not help us to learn, share and move forward together.

Indigenous Australians are asking for our non-Indigenous Australian brothers and sisters to take the time and learn more about the Indigenous place in our country’s history. [Harper’s] look through the Indigenous lens tells us, no matter how much the truth confronts us, we should never just turn away, or push our history aside. History was recorded to show us the steps we took in the past, but also gives us the tools we need to walk together into the future.

“Slavery is a part of Australian history, as much as the Shearer, the convict and the Anzac”  And, like Affleck, “we need to stop living in denial of our own racist past”. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Indigenous Australians are asking Australia to share the pride in what was built-in Australia together, and a country every Veteran fought for.

The Original people still hold the keys to the country, They have already explained ‘before science’ that Australia [Gondwana) is “The Oldest Place on Earth”[Australia is the oldest piece of the Earths crust]

The Aboriginal Oral history that explains the volcanic eruptions of Australia have been proven true. Every morning, we ‘Australians’ are privileged to wake up in “the land where time began” Time for all non Indigenous Australia to walk alongside the oldest continuous culture on earth, with pride and dignity.

Australian Band Busby Marou released a song last year that expresses our gratitude to all our Anzacs and goes a step further to acknowledge our Indigenous men and women who served our country. The clip pays homage to all our war veterans, both indigenous and non indigenous who fought side by side. This positive example through music is a real spark of thought to a future Australian Song that represents us all with pride and dignity, and a logical step towards our future together.

“Together we will paint this land” Busby Marou

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4 Comments

  1. Nice article and well researched! Indigenous perspectives have been ignored for so long, it’s not surprising Australia has a bizarre anthem.

    And this – “fact: When slavery was abolished in America it was Australia who picked up the cotton trade to the world”

    I didn’t know that – but it’s ironic because after USA got independence and stopped taking prisoners from England, the colony of New South Wales was established as the new prisoner dumping ground.



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