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An alternative National Anthem will be read out as a poem before games in the NRL Telstra Premiership's Indigenous Round this week.

The initiative has been pushed by Australian Rugby League commissioner Dr Chris Sarra, who has gained international recognition for his leadership in Indigenous education.

The alternative lyrics to the National Anthem were written and recorded by Judith Durham, lead singer of The Seekers, in 2009.

"Inclusiveness is one of the values of our game of rugby league – the greatest game of all," Sarra said on ABC Radio on Thursday.

"We take those things seriously and given that it is Indigenous Round we thought it would be a good way to gently say to the rest of the country, 'you know what, our National Anthem in its current form is not as inclusive as it could be. There is an alternative set of words that sounds very similar to the existing one that is worth having a look at'.

"It won't be played as the National Anthem but it will be recited as a poem. We just wanted the country to have a think about it and start the conversation about who we are."

The NRL will celebrate Indigenous Round throughout Round 10, with every NRL club wearing Indigenous inspired jerseys during the round for the first time in history. A series of cultural performances, gift exchanges and Welcome to Country ceremonies will occur at matches, with a theme of Recognition as the focal point throughout the round.

Past Indigenous legends of the game, Dean Widders and George Rose, will also spend time with each club in the lead up to the round, educating teams on the importance of the round and history of rugby league amongst Indigenous communities.

"When I was speaking to my colleagues at the Commission and Todd Greenberg, I said to them 'when we play the National Anthem in its current form I'll stand up as it's polite to do so, but when I listen to the lyrics I don't particularly feel included and I'm not sure that new Australians would feel particularly included, and I'm not even sure that most Australians really connect with our current National Anthem'," Sarra said.

"The alternative form of words is pretty spectacular. When you hear it sung, it's the kind of thing that a National Anthem should do. It gives you goosebumps.

"We're all clever people and we're aware that this can get highly emotive. We didn't want to upset our corporate sponsors or our relationship with government, or our fans. We just wanted to say 'have a think about this'."

The NRL is continuing its partnership with RECOGNISE throughout Indigenous Round, with support for the movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution and ensure there is no place for racial discrimination.

In addition, the NRL will also celebrate the 1967 Referendum to enable States and Territories to make laws in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to count them in the census, and the 25th anniversary of the 1992 High Court Mabo decision that recognised native title for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Judith Durham's alternative National Anthem lyrics

Australians let us stand as one, upon this sacred land.
A new day dawns, we’re moving on to trust and understand.
Combine our ancient history and cultures everywhere,
To bond together for all time, advance Australia fair.
With loving hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Australians let us all be one, with peace and harmony.
Our precious water, soil and sun, grant life for you and me.
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts to love, respect and share,
And honouring the Dreaming, advance Australia fair.
With loving hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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