• Yorta Yorta soprano and conductor Deborah Cheetham (right) (NITV News)
Yorta Yorta woman and soprano Deborah Cheetham AO is stirring Australia to embrace its maturity following her decision to not perform the Australian National Anthem at the 2015 AFL Grand Final.
By
Malarndirri McCarthy

23 Oct 2015 - 5:56 PM  UPDATED 23 Oct 2015 - 6:16 PM

TRANSCRIPT

Malarndirri McCarthy: Well joining me now from Melbourne to talk about the Goodes and Tapsell incidents is Yorta Yorta soprano, conductor and composer, Deborah Cheetham AO.

Deborah you made your own statement earlier this month by refusing the offer to sing the national anthem at the AFL grand final, and we'll get to that in a moment.

But first, what are your thoughts on the negative social media response to both Miranda Tapsell and Adam Goodes?

Deborah CheethamI do think that the voice of ignorance does speak very loudly. But I think that there is a growing silent majority who I believe won't stay silent for much longer. I don't think Australia wants this identity. I think we've seen in just the last couple of weeks a change in prime minister leadership in the country, is changing the message is changing..there's so much more to do and I think Australians in general won't stand by for much longer and put up with this kind of commentary in social media.

"I think that there is a growing silent majority who I believe won't stay silent for much longer"

Marlarndirri McCarthy: So what about you. Tell us about your experience. You asked for changes to be made to thre national anthem when you were invited to sing at the AFL Grand Final. What was the purpose behind that.

Deborah Cheetham: Well let me begin by saying it was a great honour to be asked to sing at such a high-profile and prestigious event, to represent our nation. But I really can no longer sing the word young in relation to our country. I have sung the anthem at other events.

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I think the most public occasion was now six years ago. And in that time I've really come to understand that to sing the word 'young' in relation to our country is really to perpetuate this idea that, of terra nullius really. That everything was built when the British arrived. You know by any measurement we cannot say that Australia is a young nation. If we only count the achievements since federation, still, only 114 years, that's hardly young.

Marlarndirri McCarthy: So how do you move forward with that concept, and you're talking about a maturing nation, the ability to recognise that there's perhaps many cultures here, especially the first nations' cultures. What is it about the maturity that you're asking this country to look at.

"I've really come to understand that to sing the word 'young' in relation to our country is really to perpetuate this idea that, of terra nullius really"

Deborah Cheetham: I think that there is so much that we can gain from embracing the true value of our, let's, well say, 70,000 years, some people will argue it's only 50,000, I'm happy to give you 20,000 in lose change if you like [laughs]. But let's talk about that more than 1,000 generations of cumulated wisdom and knowledge. 

Let's talk about an Australia that can once and for all embrace Indigenous culture as an asset, rather than seeing it as a liability, and what a mature nation would actually look like. That's what I would like to see Australia heading and I think that we're kind of stuck in a rut with this notion that we should be celebrating the fact that we're young. Firstly, we're not young, as I say, by any measurement.

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And secondly, shouldn't we be aspiring to the kind of wisdom that comes with maturity so that we can take our place on the international stage?

Marlarndirri McCarthy: Well you are someone who is very well know certainly in the arts and with your beautiful voice. Deborah, how do you progress something like this. You spoke about the new prime minister...Malcolm Turnbull. Is it something that he should champion, something that you would like to see him champion?

"But let's talk about that more than 1,000 generations of cumulated wisdom and knowledge... and what a mature nation would actually look like"

Deborah Cheetham: I think it's something that he can champion. I think it's in line with many of the ideals that he holds. Now whether his party will alow him to, time will decide. But I think that the people can decide. You know, I've received an overwhelming amount of support for the decision that I took to make a stand for myself and I'm finding that that stand actually is acknowledged and recognised by many Australians. Of course the haters are there and they will hate. But ther eis a growing voice in Australia that say, 'yeah, we're ready to grow up, we're ready to take ohold of what a mature Australia would be.

"You wanted to sing about peace and harmony, instead of young and free, so I inserted those words for myself"

Just today I receoved one email from a mother who attended a graduation ceremony yesterday, and she said, 'Look, we don't know each other Deborah, but I decided that I would sing that you wanted to sing at the AFL Grand Final. You wanted to sing about peace and harmony, instead of young and free, so I inserted those words for myself.'

And I'd encourage Australians everywhere to insert those words, or to have a look at the full set of lyrics that Judith Durham dveloped in 2009. It's a beautiful alternative.

Malarndirri McCarthy: Deborah Cheetham, we would love to hear you sing another alternative, perhaps that's soemthing we can do in the future. All the best and thank you for speaking with me.