It’s Australia Day again (or Straya Day as we say in the local dialect), sparking the inevitable debates about whether this is a day of celebration or shame.
We’re also being encouraged to participate in familiar discussions about our national anthem, our flag, and whether we should finally cast off the British monarchy and become a truly independent nation.
However, the arguments seem more mature and better informed this time and it feels like change might be possible. Perhaps we will finally ‘Advance Australia Fair’ into a new era of prosperity, innovation, sustainability, social inclusion and tolerance?
Changing the anthem
I don’t particularly like the words of our current anthem (e.g. ‘our land is girt by sea’ and we’re definitely not a ‘young’ country) but my main objection stems from my limited vocal ability. I find it extremely difficult to sing this song loudly and with passion. As a result, this anthem fails to stir my emotions or inspire nationalistic pride.
(This is not a case of false modesty. In a music exam many years ago, the examiner asked me to sing a simple melody that he had played on the piano. After two attempts, he suggested that I hum it instead. In the end, he asked me just to clap out the rhythm. Even so, that doesn’t stop me from belting out a rousing rendition of ‘Land or Hope and Glory’.)
I’ve written before about how we chose our current anthem ‘Advance Australia Fair’ (here). There are now suggestions that we should change the words to something like ‘Rise up beautiful country’ and sing part of it in one of our numerous indigenous languages. (Have a listen and see what you reckon – here.)
And there’s a revised version of Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘My country’ doing the rounds on social media – but I’m not sure who came up with it. (Possibly @?)
“I love a fracked up country
a land of black coal trains
of dug up mountain ranges
and poisoned water drains”
I’d be happy with any song that acknowledges indigenous Australians and the diversity of our current population – as long as it’s easy to sing and makes me feel proud.
In any case, we’ll also need a song for the new Republic when we ditch the royal anthem ‘God Save the Queen’.
Maybe we can incorporate words and riffs from some great Aussie rock legends into a new modern anthem? (e.g. Goanna’s ‘Solid Rock‘, anything by Midnight Oil, and Icehouse’s ‘Great Southern Land‘) Or why not just choose The Seekers classic ‘I am Australian‘ and be done with it?
Despite loving Australia and feeling very fortunate to live here, I really related to a scene in ‘The Newsroom’ where a student at a campus debate asks news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) “What makes America the greatest country in the world?”. (Watch the relevant clip – here)
When pushed, McAvoy replies that it’s not the greatest country. Then he lists a whole lot of areas where America is falling behind. Sadly, many of his criticisms apply to Australia as well.
I’m ashamed of our treatment of refugees and indigenous Australians, our deplorable record on renewable energy, our failure to adequately and consistently fund scientific research, our short-sighted approach to letting our manufacturing industry disappear, and our stubborn determination to prioritise mining over the environment.
Not to mention our backward stance on same sex marriage. Even ultra-Roman Catholic countries like Malta have passed laws to allow such unions and Italy is voting on this issue this week (e.g. here).
However, the Australian of the Year Awards last night filled me with hope (here).
It’s time for each of us to take a stand against things like domestic violence and discrimination, to ensure that every child gets a great education, and to treat people who are homeless and other disenfranchised Australians with dignity and respect. We have some amazing people leading the charge.
C’mon Australia! We can do better.
Photo credits: Pip Marks