Another Australia Day, another controversy | radioinfo

Another Australia Day, another controversy

Tuesday 26 January, 2021
ABC News: Margaret Burin
Comment from Peter Saxon


A few years ago, I defended triple j's decision to move the Hottest 100 Countdown from January 26th to another date. I made the point that most of the negative commentary seemed to be anchored to a misapprehension that Aunty’s youth network was changing the date of Australia Day. They were doing no such thing. 
 
All they were doing was moving a triple j produced countdown show to another date - an “exciting new date,” as they would say on TV. I’ve never understood what that meant. If they moved it to February 30th, that would certainly be novel, if not very exciting.
 
triple j had held extensive discussions on air before polling their audience about moving this piece of content to another date. Unsurprisingly, the majority of triple j’s audience agreed – even if 2GB’s audience didn’t. So, the countdown was moved. Yet, the sky remains firmly up there in the firmament where it belongs. 
 
But this latest attempt by the ABC to formally equate Australia Day with Invasion Day makes me uncomfortable because it’s such a divisive decision at a time when the last thing the world needs is more division. 
 
I have no problem with individual program presenters expressing their own opinions and inviting listeners to express theirs. That’s good radio, and provided the discussion is respectful and balanced, it’s a discussion that needs to be had. 
 
Yes, I realise that it’s actually a discussion we’ve been having since before Federation, but in all that time it’s gained little traction. The latest Ipsos Poll conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, found only 28 per cent agreed with changing the date, 48 per cent were opposed and 24 per cent were undecided.
 
Those stats hardly give the public broadcaster a corporate mandate, across radio, television and online, to endorse what is clearly a minority position. It’s a free kick to ABC detractors that constantly whinge about having to pay taxes to support a political bias that’s at odds with their own.
 
If the date, January 26 and the events around it had become a rallying point for white supremacists, as the Confederate flag is in the U.S., then I wouldn’t hesitate to join those wanting to change the date. But that's not what Australia Day means to the vast majority of Australians, most of whom, like me, came to this country since 1900 with no ancestral connection to the First Fleet.
 
Yet, I, along with millions of others voted for the Rudd government on the promise they'd formally apologise to our indigenous countrymen and women, and to acknowledge the pain and suffering that others had inflicted upon them.  
 
And, when it came to really important decisions, such as the 1967 referendum to give Indigenous Australians the vote, those who already had it opened their hearts with more than 90 percent voting YES.
 
I agree that we shouldn’t airbrush history. Moving Australia Day will not change the past. But It could just sweep it under the carpet.
 
The past should be commemorated, warts and all, perhaps with a minute's silence on Australia Day when we all come together as one and celebrate the country that we’ve become. There's room for that. Australia Day has become a showcase for Indigenous culture as the Aboriginal flag flies everywhere you look. Indigenous people are very much included in every event, whether
organised by local councils or state or federal governments, is preceded by a welcome to country ceremony.
 
Of course, like all Australians, Indigenous activists have every right to peaceful protest. But not now. Not in the midst of a pandemic. We’re not in America. We’re Australians. We don’t flout medical advice and hold super spreader events that could potentially cost us our own lives and those of others just to make a symbolic point about events that occurred 230 years ago – and that we can’t change. Not even the ABC can do that.
 
I believe we can do something better. Something that's more practical than tinkering with a date like we tinkered with the Anthem. Let’s change the Anthem. Musically, it’s ordinary. The lyrics are not exactly Banjo Patterson. They’re cryptic like MacArthur Park but more boring. Girt by Sea sounds like a town in England.
 
Why stick with this poor example of a National Anthem when we have a much better one ready to go, that everyone loves. One that’s more reflective of today's Australia. An anthem that’s way more inclusive than Advance Australia Fair. How 'bout I am, You are, We are Australian. 
 
It works mate! 

It works on every level. It's written by Bruce Woodley from the Seekers. You can't get much more Australian than that.
 
It starts at the first verse, where it should start, with the first people. 
 
 
I came from the dream-time
From the dusty red-soil plains
I am the ancient heart
The keeper of the flame
I stood upon the rocky shores
I watched the tall ships come
For forty thousand years I've been
The first Australian
 
I came upon the prison ship
Bowed down by iron chains
I bought the land, endured the lash
And waited for the rains
I'm a settler, I'm a farmer's wife
On a dry and barren run
A convict, then a free man
I became Australian
 
I'm the daughter of a digger
Who sought the mother lode
The girl became a woman 
On the long and dusty road
I'm a child of the Depression
I saw the good times come
I'm a bushie, I'm a battler
I am Australian
 
We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We'll share a dream and sing with one voice
I am, You are, We are Australian. 


 
 


 

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3 Comments

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Anthony The Koala
27 January 2021 - 12:17pm
It is ironic that the Senior Australian of the Year, 2021, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, Aboriginal activist, educator and artist, accepted her award with grace and humility. In 1975, she became the NT's first teacher of Aboriginal heritage. There was no grievance. She also received an AM on the 26th January 1998, that is Australia Day,

Her citation:
"FOR SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY OF NAUIYU NAMBIYU IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY, PARTICULARLY THROUGH THE PROMOTION OF ABORIGINAL EDUCATION AND ABORIGINAL ART. AM S14 1998"

Sources:
https://honours.pmc.gov.au/honours/search
https://www.miriamrosefoundation.org.au/about-us/who-miriamrose
https://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/recipients/listing/2021/

She stood and stands for the education of including more Aboriginal teachers and the education of Aboriginal children. Education is what will lift people out of poverty.

She is an activist and a doer and her activities were also recognized by the Charles Darwin University, https://www.cdu.edu.au/sites/default/files/governance/docs/Miriam-Rose-Ungunmerr-Baumann.pdf .

Australia Day is a day of reflection of who we are and also a recognition of the role models in our society through the Australian of The Year Awards

Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, is a role model who by example and teaching will lead children into learning in order to get themselves out of inter-generational poverty.

This is unlike the characters portrayed in the movie "Rabbit Proof Fence", based on a true story, where the girls wanted to escape being relegated to a life of being a servant instead of belonging to their community or may I add, getting an education for trade or profession.

In regards to the National Anthem, "Advance Australia Fair", the quality of the musical arrangement can make it stirring or a dirge. Two examples of the musical arrangement which make stirring include (a) the broadcast, by the ABC, 26-01-2021 from Lake Burley Griffin of the National Anthem with the ANU Choir with piano and didgeridoo accompaniment and (b) the National Anthem arranged by Tommy Tycho (RIP).

I would suggest a replacement of that "girt" word or restructuring the lyrics to continue to convey that our land is bounded/surrounded by the sea.

For me that "girt" word reminds me of a person Gertie who came to my place for my 2nd birthday who was on the turps and a laugh that would sound like coughing up of phlegm. I cannot separate Gertie and "girt".

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting Belfield
David
27 January 2021 - 12:38pm
I've though about the idea of making the I Am Australian song the National Anthem. It's too complex of a song to be the anthem. One of the reasons we hear the US anthem sung with so much strain is because musically it's a very difficult melody to sing. Change Australia Day to the last Monday in January, make it a long weekend.

The ABC sparked constructive debate about Australia Day this year. Triple Js decision to move the Hottest 100 reflected the prevailing attitude of the audience they represent so it was a reasonable move for them rather than a political statement.
Christian Arge
28 January 2021 - 4:24am
Terrific piece Peter !
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