National anthem debate: Anthony Mundine slams change, Wallabies’ anthem splits Indigenous footy stars
Advance Australia Beware. It was the gesture expected to unite Australian sport but the Wallabies’ ‘Indigenous’ national anthem has split the community.
December 6, 2020 - 7:08PM
News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom
Rugby: The Australian National anthem received a slight twist as it was sung in the Eora language for the first time at a sporting event.
It was a gesture designed to help unite Australian sport but the national anthem debate has not only split Australia but also the Indigenous rugby league community.
Several leading Indigenous rugby league heroes have strongly denounced the Wallabies’ decision to sing the Australian national anthem in two languages, with Anthony Mundine claiming: “It’s like kicking someone when they’re down.”
But Indigenous rugby league legends Steve Renouf and Larry Corowa have supported the anthem concept that could catch on across national sporting teams.
South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell and former Dragons and NSW champion Mundine criticised players singing Advance Australia Fair in both English and the Eora language before Saturday night’s Test match against Argentina.
And the NRL on Sunday said it has no immediate plans to sing the anthem in two languages from next season.
The Wallabies during the Indigenous anthem. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty
Wallabies players learned the lyrics — which are not a direct translation of Advance Australia Fair — in Eora but Mundine and Mitchell claim the original version of the anthem is racist.
“For me, bro, how can I put it? It’s like kicking someone when they’re down. The message of the anthem is wrong. It was putting salt into the wound for Aboriginal men,” Mundine said.
“If they want to change things then actually change the words of the anthem. But you can’t just sing the same original text in Aboriginal language and think it’s going to fly with people.
“It got people talking but it still ain’t the right message. It looks good and sounded good when the Wallabies sang it and it looks like they’re giving back — but they’re not really giving back.
“The original anthem is racially driven from its inception and now they want to do it in Aboriginal language — two wrongs don’t make it right. The anthem is the theme song for the white Australian policy.”
Mitchell said the Wallabies’ new version – which generated wide support on social media – was still unacceptable.
“When will people understand that changing it to language doesn’t change the meaning!” he posted on Instagram with a face-palm emoji.
“Be proud but understand what you’re being proud of. I stand for us, our mob! Be proud of the oldest living culture. Always was, always will be.”
Latrell Mitchell posted on his Instagram page after the anthem.
But their sentiments were met with opposition from Corowa and Renouf.
“You know what I’m like, I’m old school,” Corowa said. “Just sing the Australian anthem. I’ve got no problem with the anthem.
“All of a sudden we’re putting politics into sport. I wish they’d just leave the politics out of it. We’re all playing for Australia so let’s just play the Australian anthem.”
Renouf added: “I understand and respect where they (Mitchell and Mundine) are coming from but I think it’s a step in the right direction.
“I think it was a good touch by the Wallabies and there are a lot of Indigenous people happy with that. Good on the ARU, they didn’t have to do it.”
The NRL will consult with two Indigenous advisory groups before considering any change to the anthem protocols for next season.
Anthony Mundine said the anthem was a kick in the guts for Aboriginal men. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
One of those groups will be the six-member Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council which includes NRL greats Laurie Daley and Preston Campbell.
The second is an Indigenous senior playing group which includes Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Ryan James and Cody Walker.
The NRL started its 2018 Indigenous round with a rendition of Advance Australia Fair sung in an Indigenous language and backed by traditional Indigenous instruments. Another version with a similar concept was performed before Game 3 of the 2010 State of Origin series.
“We have the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council and then we have an Indigenous senior playing group. They are our voice for what they believe is appropriate,” said NRL CEO, Andrew Abdo.
“We have an informal Indigenous player’s advisory group and I connect with them from time to time on general issues in the game. It’s important to get their views.
Andrew Abdo will work the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council. Picture: Phil Hillyard
“Cody Walker is on that, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Ryan James and Joel Thompson, although he is in the UK now. They are an important voice. They will look at it make a recommendation to the commission.
“The Indigenous Council plays an important tole for us in being a voice of Indigenous people on these types of matters. Clearly the anthem is a very sensitive and emotive issue for a lot of people.
“It’s less about what I think but more about what those bodies think and what is appropriate for rugby league.
“We won’t rush to do anything and take advice from the Advisory Council. It will be carefully considered and luckily we don’t games for a while. We can think about it and consult.
“Ultimately the (ARL) Commission will make a call as to whether we change going forward based on the recommendations.”
LANGER SUPPORTS ANTHEM STATEMENT
- Ben Horne
Justin Langer sent footage of the Wallabies’ Indigenous language national anthem to his staff on Sunday as the Australia cricket team embraced the landmark cultural statement.
Australia cricket have taken their own initiatives this summer towards reconciliation, with barefoot circle ceremonies before matches and the men’s team wearing an Indigenous strip for the Twenty20 internationals against India.
Langer has taken an active role in consulting with Aboriginal community elders in how his team should recognise culture, and the coach was supportive of what he saw the Wallabies do on Saturday night against Argentina.
It was the first time a joint-language anthem has been performed at an international sporting event in Australia, but its warm reception from cricket suggests the concept may continue to gain traction.
Cricket Australia’s Indigenous Engagement Specialist Courtney Hagan said the Wallabies players deserved credit for their dedication in learning the words to the anthem in the Eora language.
“I think anything that contributes to the dialogue about ensuring the anthem is better to represent First Nations people is good,” said Hagan.
“Yet we still have a long way to go.”