One of the most respected indigenous voices in the land, Sydney Olympics gold medallist Cathy Freeman, has broken her silence on the national anthem debate, joining a growing list of high-profile sporting figures who believe Advance Australia Fair is disrespectful and needs to be changed. Freeman expressed support for the Recognition in Anthem Project, founded by former Victorian Supreme Court judge Peter Vickery QC, which launched its proposal last year for an updated version of Advance Australia Fair.
Source: Will Swanton, News Corp
Cathy Freeman backs move to alter national anthem’s lyrics
In the first verse, “We are young and free” became “we are one and free” when it was performed at Ormiston Gorge, west of Alice Springs, in September.
RAP had already won support from Bob Hawke, the late prime minister who signed off on replacing God Save the Queen with Advance Australia Fair in 1984, but came to believe in his final years that another switch was required.
In a written statement, Freeman told The Australian: “I agree with Peter Vickery (the founder of RAP) that the national anthem doesn’t acknowledge indigenous existence in Australia.”
Freeman, 47, was the first Aboriginal Commonwealth Games gold medallist as a 16-year-old in 1990. Her triumph at the Sydney Games forever etched her into the national story. She carried both Australian and Aboriginal flags for her victory lap, the latter being a breach of International Olympic Committee rules.
She’s been a somewhat reclusive figure, but has been a passionate worker for indigenous children through her Cathy Freeman Foundation, which delivers education programs for more than 1600 children on Palm Island off north Queensland, on Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory, Woorabinda in central Queensland, and Galiwinku on Elcho Island in Arnhem Land.
Told of Freeman’s support, Mr Vickery said: “That means a great deal to us. To have a person of that stature both acknowledging and publicly supporting us, and the need for a change, is no small thing. We also received a lot of support from Bob Hawke, who was our patron elect, and who the lyrics are dedicated to. In his last years, he recognised the deficiencies in the anthem.
“The minimalist change to the opening verse, just changing that one word, I believe puts us on the right path.”
Mr Vickery changed only one word in the opening verse. He rewrote the second and third verses to inject recognition of indigenous heritage, multiculturalism and trademark Australian values such as mateship.
For example: “For 60,000 years and more, first peoples of this land … Unite our cultures from afar, in peace with those first here … From red-rock heart to sun-filled shore, our country free and fair … Beneath the Southern Cross we sing, Advance Australia Fair.”
Hawke said before his death last year: “While I am not in a position to be an advocate for any particular new lyrics, or act as a judge between different possible versions, the words put forward by the Recognition in Anthem Project … in my opinion capture the spirit of our great country.”
On Monday, the South Sydney NRL club — famous for its indigenous roots in Redfern and outspoken Aboriginal players such as Cody Walker, Greg Inglis and now Latrell Mitchell — appointed the non-indigenous Adam Reynolds as captain.
Asked about the push among NRL players for the anthem to be replaced, Reynolds said: “I see where they’re coming from. I don’t see changing it as a big deal at all. We want to bring the nation together in as many ways as we can.
“I think the time is right for a change. We owe a lot to the indigenous people. They’re the true traditional owners of this land.”