Historic anthem: Wallabies take society forward
Wallabies players sang the first half of the national anthem in indigenous language on Saturday night, marking a milestone occasion for Australian sports teams in recognising our history.
Each player, to a man sang, the words along with Newtown Performing Arts high school indigenous student Olivia Fox, having practised during the week for the historic moment at Parramatta's Bankwest Stadium before the final Test match of 2020, against Argentina.
In the same week years' old racist tweets emerged from Pumas players, resulting in the suspension of captain Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, this gesture of respect towards Australia's oldest race was an important, admirable step forward.
Wallabies player Dane Haylett-Petty had been slammed recently for suggesting players could take a knee during the anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
He should have been applauded for bravery, and speaking up for those who for too long have been discriminated against.
Absolutely fantastic: every Wallabies player sung the first half of the national anthem in Indigenous language. Learned the words. Paid respect. A great step forward 🔴🟡⚫️ #AUSvARG pic.twitter.com/Efy91gIRt7— Jamie Pandaram (@JamiePandaram) December 5, 2020
That was very special @RugbyAU historic evening in Sydney as Olivia Fox,from Newtown High School of Performing Arts,sang the Australian National Anthem in Eora language & then in English, joined by the @wallabies wearing their First Nations jersey #AUSvARG #TriNations2020 #rugby pic.twitter.com/MBJRfzMTKe— sam mostyn (@sammostyn) December 5, 2020
However, this new idea of singing the first part of the anthem in indigenous tongue is even more powerful, because it is original, and can inspire other teams to follow suit without being engulfed in the controversies of a movement some like to believe only applies to the United States.
Under the tenure of new coach Dave Rennie, the Wallabies have openly embraced diversity. They have learned Fijian and Tongan songs in camp, and visited the National indigenous Centre for Excellence a number of times.
The debate around Australia's anthem, and growing calls to change lyrics that are offensive to our first people, has even earned the support of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently.
The second line of the anthem, "for we are young and free", is dismissive of indigenous people who have roamed Australian land for 60,000 years, compared to the "young" settlement of Europeans 250 years ago.
Australia's sports teams have been caught between wanting to show support, but fearing that any show of solidarity to indigenous people may bring about a fierce backlash from conservatives.
The Wallabies, on December 5, 2020, showed perfectly how it should be done.
A wonderful gesture. An astute mark of respect.
Australia's rugby players looked backwards to take society forward.
Originally published as Historic anthem: Wallabies take society forward