A new campaign proposing an adapted version of the national anthem has arisen from a seemingly unlikely quarter; Supreme Court of Victoria judge, The Hon. Peter Vickery.
The website, created by Vickery, states that "The Australian National Anthem in its present form was proclaimed on 19 April 1984. It comprises two Verses, neither of which make any reference to or include the First Peoples of Australia. For this reason, Indigenous people of Australia find it very difficult, if not impossible, to sing the National Anthem and find the words of the second line of Verse 1 'For we are young and free' hurtful and offensive."
Criticism of the existing anthem is not new, but it gained significant media interest after two rugby league players turned boxers, Joe Williams and Anthony Mundine, each made public comments about why they choose not to stand for the anthem. Their comments were supported by many other people across Australia, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, who for various reasons feel that the current anthem is problematic and should be either changed or replaced altogether.
Speaking to NITV, VIckery, who writes poetry inspired by the environment, our urban spaces and responses to these in his spare time, said that the idea to write a new, more inclusive verse for the anthem came to him whilst on holiday last year. "I was on vacation last September in our family cottage in Batlow, Snowy Mountains. I was aware of considerable disquiet among Indigenous people about the National Anthem. Many find it difficult, if not impossible, to sing it. A failure to recognise our First Peoples in the National Anthem struck me as profoundly unjust. I set to work to write something on the back of an envelope. Some six months later, and after countless drafts, a new third verse was completed."
A failure to recognise our First Peoples in the National Anthem struck me as profoundly unjust. I set to work to write something on the back of an envelope. Some six months later, and after countless drafts, a new third verse was completed.
Acclaimed Yorta Yorta soprano, Deborah Cheetham was an integral part of the initial stages. "I was privileged to receive some input from Yorta Yorta soprano, Deborah Cheetham, who at an early stage assisted in workshopping some of the concepts and words. Deborah refused an invitation the year before in 2015 to sing the present National Anthem at the AFL Grand Final. She simply could not bring herself to sing it."
Vickery said that the response to his effort so far has been positive. "A respected Elder has said: "I don't know the words of the National Anthem, but I am happy with this". Others say that they have been "brought to tears" when they heard the recorded performance of Gungarri baritone Don Bemrose, on the web-site: www.rap.org.au."
Bemrose tells NITV that he is proud to be a part of this project. "I have sung the Aust NA for many national events including NRL AFL and SLSA to acclaim for my talent but also receiving backlash on singing the current divisive anthem that lacks inclusion of our first people's. I am honoured to lend my voice to this project as it offers one way to move forward. Uncle Kutcha Edwards and Judith Durham inspired me with their version in 2008/9 to know we can make a difference at a community level."
I am honoured to lend my voice to this project as it offers one way to move forward
It will be important to achieve an inclusive National Anthem which acknowledges the history of the huge time span of occupation of our First Peoples on the Australian continent and adjacent islands, and speaks of their spirituality, their culture, their connection to Country, and our respect for these things."
Find out more about the project, see the proposed song and sign the petition here.