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Mundine's huge twist in Origin anthem boycott

Wide World of Sports logo Wide World of Sports 30/05/2019 Tim Elbra
Tony Mundine posing for the camera: Anthony Mundine with the Aboriginal flag. © AAP Anthony Mundine with the Aboriginal flag.

Anthony Mundine wants white players to support a boycott of the Australian national anthem in State of Origin.

Aboriginal Blues stars Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr have confirmed that they will not sing the anthem before the series-opening game between NSW and Queensland on Wednesday night.

Walker made the same protest before this year’s All Stars game, playing for the Indigenous team, and Mundine has refused to sing the anthem before boxing matches.

Mundine, a former NSW player, told Wide World of Sports that support from white players would enormously boost the debate about injustice against Indigenous people and about Advance Australia Fair – which Mundine insists is a racist song.

“That would be unbelievable, because they [also] want change. Because generally, people are good people,” Mundine said.

“[Damien] Cook came out saying he really admires and respects Cody’s decision. But it would be great to see if non-Aboriginal brothers took the same stance.

“All white fellas ain’t bad. They see the Aboriginal people’s plight, they see what’s going on; the oppression. Within the justice system, kids are getting locked up. How limited the opportunities for Aboriginal people and how many opportunities there are for Caucasian white fellas.

“It’s hard, but if they stood with them it would be a lot more powerful movement for what they’re trying to do, because then you’ve got both sides of the fence taking one action.”

Rugby league players are not exactly renowned for their anthem singing and there may well be other stars who remain silent on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium. But a deliberate act of solidarity from leading white players would have an enormous impact.

Mundine said that apart from completely ignoring Indigenous people, Advance Australia Fair contained language from the White Australia Policy era, which discriminated against non-European immigrants.

He has called for Australia to dump its anthem and flag, because neither national symbols are representative of Indigenous people.

“I’m proud of the brothers [Walker and Addo-Carr] taking a stand. They got to higher ground,” Mundine said.

“The current anthem right now, if you do your research on it – to me, it’s racist. It doesn’t include [Indigenous people].

“It’s all about Advance Australia ‘Fair’ – but that’s fair in colour. That’s why the Stolen Generations came into play. They wanted to wipe out the blackness of this country.

“The White Australia Policy lasted from 1901 to the 1970s, and the theme song for that was Advance Australia Fair.

“People have got to do their research. It’s just an injustice to the Aboriginal people, the native people of this land. It’s affected family, it’s affected mob; and obviously it’s affected Cody and Josh’s mob.”

a man holding a football ball: Cody Walker: © AAP Cody Walker: Josh Addo-Carr wearing a blue shirt: Josh Addo-Carr: © AAP Josh Addo-Carr:

Mundine said that he believed Latrell Mitchell, another Aboriginal NSW star, would also remain silent during the anthem in Origin; as he did with the Indigenous All Stars.

He said that the players had every right to conduct a peaceful protest and that doing so during Origin, Australia’s most-watched sporting event, would bring huge exposure to Indigenous issues.

“It’s not just about Cody making a stand. It’s about trying to educate the masses of the truth behind the anthem,” Mundine said.

“That’s why I’m proud of Cody and Josh. And Latrell won’t sing it. He might not say it, but he won’t sing it. He’s deep in culture and his family, from Taree, they’ve got deep roots.

“The brothers are proud of who they are and they’re on a platform where they can make change for the better. They’re not breaking anybody’s heads; they’re doing it silently. They’re protesting the injustices and the oppressions that our people face.

“Me being who I am and what I’ve advocated over the years, I’m proud to see these young brothers take a stand. Hopefully, in some little way, my stance on these issues is being heard.”

Latrell Mitchell with a football ball: Latrell Mitchell did not sing the anthem before playing for the Indigenous All Stars. © AAP Latrell Mitchell did not sing the anthem before playing for the Indigenous All Stars.

Johnathan Thurston, an Aboriginal man and future Immortal, admitted this week that he was shocked by how quickly debate dissipated after the Indigenous team refused to sing the anthem before this NRL season’s All Stars game.

The issue has not inspired continued debate in the way that Colin Kaepernick’s protest of Star-Spangled Banner has in the US, after the San Francisco 49ers NFL player knelt for the national anthem.

Kaepernick’s gesture was taken up by black players league wide, protesting entrenched injustice and discrimination, and debate was reignited when white players supported the cause.

Cleveland’s Seth DeValve became the first white NFL player to kneel during the anthem, during August 2017, and other white players signalled support for black teammates by placing hands on their shoulders as the knelt.

Tony Mundine looking at the camera: Anthony Mundine says the national anthem is a white supremacist song and he won't stand for it against Jeff Horn. Anthony Mundine says the national anthem is a white supremacist song and he won't stand for it against Jeff Horn.

“You’ve just got to keep on raising the issue,” Mundine said.

“Kaepernick did what I would have done if I had the opportunity. Take a knee, or sit down. Because I can’t stand for something that I don’t believe in, I can’t stand for something that’s disrespectful to my people.

“I just hope there’s no repercussions in any way for the players [who refuse to sing the anthem]. I think that they’re doing it with their heart, with their soul and they’re doing it for the right reasons. They’re not doing it for anything else. My love and respect goes out to them.

“Don’t make the brothers feel like they’re doing something wrong. We should be uplifting them and giving respect to them for what they’re standing up for. It’s right.”

Tony Mundine holding a football ball: Anthony Mundine eludes Kevin Walters in State of Origin 1999. © Getty Anthony Mundine eludes Kevin Walters in State of Origin 1999.

WHY COULD ADVANCE AUSTRALIA FAIR BE CONSIDERED RACIST?

THE ANTHEM’S NAME

‘Advance Australia’ was a term used in propaganda material for the White Australia movement. Whether it was used in that context or not in the anthem, it still uses the same tainted language.

‘Fair’ is a term that means ‘beautiful’ but refers to a specific type of beauty: white beauty, that of fair complexion. It is a divisive distinction for many Aboriginal people; especially those impacted by the devastation of Australia's former assimilation policies, which between 1910 and 1970 created the Stolen Generations.

“Psychologically, you’re taught from a young age that white is pure and dark is evil. All these subconscious things you get taught,” Mundine said.

“The media always portray Aboriginal folk, dark fellas, to be inferior. There’s two justice systems. I can go on and on.

"I’m not trying to say anybody’s wrong for believing it [the anthem], I’m just trying to educate and let them see things from another perspective; especially from an Aboriginal person’s side.”

a close up of a book: Josh Addo-Carr: © Supplied Josh Addo-Carr:

‘FOR WE ARE YOUNG AND FREE’

The concept of Australia as a young nation is only true in terms of the colonised, predominantly-white Australia. There is concrete evidence that Aboriginal people have existed in Australia for 50,000 years; other evidence suggests that they may have been here for twice that long.

Advance Australia Fair does not include any reference to Aboriginal people whatsoever. In omitting Indigenous Australians, the anthem echoes the false declaration of terra nullius: that Australia was ‘nobody’s land’ before British settlement, where in fact it was taken from its traditional owners.

The continued exclusion of Indigenous people is a shortfall in reconciliation efforts. Consider that New Zealand’s national anthem, as it is performed in public events, includes equal parts of the Maori and English languages.

The Australian flag also offers no reference to Indigenous Australians. Mundine believes that both the flag and anthem must change, given they ignore our First Peoples.

“Once you start to educate the people, we might get change. We might get a PM saying, ‘No, this is wrong,” he said.

“We’ve got to include the native people of this land, our brothers, and be one together. We’re a multi-cultural society now, but definitely the Aboriginal people have to be recognised globally.

“And the two things that are iconic for this country are the anthem and the flag. Something needs to be done, for the future and for the betterment of Australia in general.”

a man with his mouth open: Anthony Mundine: © AAP Anthony Mundine:

THE FORMER VERSIONS

Advance Australia Fair was not always as it is now. Before it became the official national anthem, it contained far more divisive material.

The themes of the original song heavily promoted the idea that Australia was a British possession, populated by expatriates and defended by force from “foreign foes”. It openly celebrated colonialism, a brutal process that dispossessed Aboriginal people of their land.

Indigenous people were not mentioned in the lyrics at all and still aren't.

The original version was four verses, written by Scottish born colonialist Peter Dodds McCormick in 1878, which went as follows:

Verse 1

Australia's sons let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

We've golden soil and wealth for toil,

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in Nature's gifts

Of beauty rich and rare;

In hist'ry's page, let ev'ry stage

Advance Australia fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia fair.

Verse 2

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.

Verse 3

While other nations of the globe

Behold us from afar,

We'll rise to high renown and shine

Like our glorious southern star;

From England soil and Fatherland,

Scotia and Erin fair,

Let all combine with heart and hand

To advance Australia fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing

Advance Australia fair.

Verse 4

Should foreign foe e'er sight our coast,       

Or dare a foot to land,                             

We'll rouse to arms like sires of yore,          

To guard our native strand;               

Britannia then shall surely know,       

Though oceans roll between,                      

Her sons in fair Australia's land                

Still keep their courage green.                      

In joyful strains then let us sing     

Advance Australia fair.

Paul Vaughan standing in front of a crowd: NSW players including Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell before the anthem in Origin II 2018. © AAP NSW players including Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell before the anthem in Origin II 2018.

The third verse was replaced in 1901, the year of Australian Federation, by what would become the second and final verse of the official anthem version:

New third verse

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,

We'll toil with hearts and hands;

To make our youthful Commonwealth,

Renowned of all the lands;

For loyal sons beyond the seas

We've boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To advance Australia fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing

Advance Australia fair.

Major changes were made to Advance Australia Fair ahead of its adoption as the official national anthem in 1984.

‘Australia’s sons let us rejoice’ became ‘Australian’s all let us rejoice’, to be inclusive of women. ‘For loyal sons beyond the seas’ became ‘For those who’ve come across the seas’, to be inclusive of all migrants.

But the song still offered no recognition to Indigenous Australians and it retained language rooted in former prejudices. To this day, it makes no reference to our First Peoples.

Thurston has called for a referendum on the national anthem, asking all Australians whether it needs to be changed. Addo-Carr is adamant that it does.

“We’re Australians too, Indigenous people. We were the first people here,” he said.

“I have full support of Cody’s decision and I’ll be behind him all the way. The anthem doesn’t represent us Indigenous people and I think we’ve got to change it.”

Mundine is imploring people, players and the general public, to educate themselves about the anthem and the realities of life for Indigenous people.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “Indigenous Australians continue to experience much poorer health and well-being than the general Australian population across many key measures, including life expectancy, mortality, hospitalisations, health risk factors, education, employment, homelessness, family violence, child protection and juvenile justice.”

a group of people on a field: Anthony Mundine says the national anthem is a white supremacist song and he won't stand for it against Jeff Horn. © AAP Anthony Mundine says the national anthem is a white supremacist song and he won't stand for it against Jeff Horn.

“I want to say to all the players: play your best, play your guts out, play your hearts out for your state and give the people an entertaining show. Enjoy the game,” Mundine said.

“But anybody that cares for the future of Australia and cares for the Indigenous side of things, the traditional owners of the land … reflect on the oppression and injustices that Aboriginal people face and what the anthem stands for. Do your research; your own research.

“Not just players, anybody out there that has a problem with this. If you do your own research, with a good heart and an open mind, you will see the truth for what it is.

“You’ve got to tell it for what it is, man. If you tell the truth, things will start changing for the better. Otherwise, you’re just gonna keep people in limbo.”

CURRENT AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM

Verse 1

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

We've golden soil and wealth for toil;

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in nature's gifts

Of beauty rich and rare;

In history's page, let every stage

Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair.

Verse 2

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross

We'll toil with hearts and hands;

To make this Commonwealth of ours

Renowned of all the lands;

For those who've come across the seas

We've boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

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