Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley and captain Cody Walker have called for a national discussion about Advance Australia Fair after players admitted they didn’t feel comfortable singing it before Friday night’s historic clash with New Zealand Maori at AAMI Stadium.
While Maori players and supporters passionately sung God Defend New Zealand, which has been commonly performed with a Maori first verse since the 1999 Rugby World Cup, the Indigenous players and 18,802 crowd were much quieter during the rendition of Advance Australia Fair.
The Australian anthem is an ongoing political issue, with a push for the second line of verse one to be changed from ‘For we are young and free’ to ‘In peace and harmony’.
The anthem was sung in Indigenous language during last season’s Indigenous round matches and at the previous All Stars match in 2017.
However, protocol requires it to be sung in the language of the traditional custodians of the land on which the game is played and Advance Australia Fair has never been translated into Woiwurrung.
Many Indigenous people feel Advance Australia Fair represents the dark history of Australia’s colonial past and Walker said he felt uncomfortable singing it.
“It doesn’t represent myself and my family,” Walker said. “It just brings back so many memories from what’s happened and I think it is something that everyone as a group and everyone in Australia needs to get together and work something out.
“I probably don’t have an answer but we as a group need to come together, and as a country we need to come together, and make some sort of decision. I reckon that is an answer.”
Daley also said there needed to be a national discussion about the anthem and believes the reaction of the Indigenous All Stars players had ensured the issue would be in the spotlight.
“I think it is discussion certainly worth having and I think it will happen,” Daley said. “For us tonight it is probably not the right arena to discuss it, for us tonight it is all about the game and that is something we will have a chat about further down the track.
“But it is an issue that Australia is facing and I am sure that tonight will be one of the reasons why we have a discussion going forward about what we do.”