For the first time in Australia’s history, the national anthem was sung in both English and an Indigenous language at an international sporting event.
Wallabies players sang the Australian National anthem in both Eora language and English at the Tri-Nations clash against Argentina at Bankwest Stadium on December 5.
Proud Wiradjuri woman, Olivia Fox, a Newtown Performing Arts student led the rendition of the anthem in Eora language, before singing Advance Australia Fair in English.
The Wallabies players learned the words to the Eora version during the week and accompanied Fox as they wore the Indigenous jersey for the test against the Pumas.
Although an Australian-first, many Indigenous public figures have since criticised the performance on social media.
NRL star Latrell Mitchell, who has been vocal in his opposition to anthem’s lyrics, condemned the rendition via Instagram.
Mitchell said singing the anthem in an Indigenous language does not change the inherent problems with the song’s lyrics and history.
He said in an Instagram story: “When will people understand that changing it to language doesn’t change the meaning?”
“Be proud but understand what you’re being proud of, I stand for us, our mob! Be proud of the oldest living culture,” he wrote.
“Always was, always will be.”
Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, a proud Djabwurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman, took to Twitter to share her view.
Senator Thorpe said the Wallabies should be celebrated for singing the anthem, however there is a bigger conversation that the nation needs to have.
“The anthem should be for all of us — but this song doesn’t even recognise us. We are not ‘young’ and many of us are not ‘free’,” she wrote.
“We can’t afford for our languages and cultures to be assimilated into a song of the past. As a country, we can do better. We can be better.”
Retired NRL star, boxer and mental health advocate Joe Williams acknowledged while the performance was sung in language, the meaning remained the same.
“A song in a different language, doesn’t make it a different, or more unified song,” he wrote.
Sis sang the song beautifully!!!
But, A song in a different language, doesn’t make it a different, or more unified song..
It’s the same song, same meaning; with different words..
— Joe Williams – TEW (@joewilliams_tew) December 6, 2020
There has also been some debate about whether the language used was a mix of languages from within the Eora Nation or if the verse was sung in Darug.
NIT contacted Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and Olivia Fox for comment however no response was received by time of publication.
By Darby Ingram