An Annotated Australian National Anthem

For this Australia Invasion Day, let us all reflect on what makes this country so great, using the words of the Australian National Anthem (annotated version).

Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free;

I don’t know about free, but Australia certainly isn’t young: close to sixty thousand years of continuous occupation by Indigenous peoples sounds pretty damn old to me. But we don’t like to talk about that, do we? We like to think that the first people (that is, people who are actually considered people) who settled here landed on Australia’s shores on the 26th of January 1788. (To avoid future confusion: they came by boat, but they were by no means ‘Boat People.’) Even our former Prime Minister likes to say that Australia was ‘nothing but bush’ before white people arrived. So yeah, I guess you can definitely say we’re a ‘young’ nation.

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; our home is girt by sea;

Our island nation is indeed ‘girt’ by sea. Funnily enough, this means that all those early settlers arrived by boat. But they were certainly not Boat People. Just to get that out of the way already.

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts of beauty, rich and rare;

Hey, this bit’s actually accurate! But it probably won’t be for long. After all, we do want to dredge the reef, and cut away huge swaths of the land for open-cut mines, and turn our waterways and agricultural land into toxic coal seam gas fields. Perhaps we need a new tourism advertising campaign: ‘Australia’s natural beauty: a limited time only offer! Get in quick or you’ll miss out!’

In history’s page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

‘Fair’ being the operative word here. Meanwhile, the gap in life expectancy, health, education and employment (just to name a few) between Australia’s white and Indigenous continues to gape ever wider.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross we’ll toil with hearts and hands;

to make this Commonwealth of ours renowned of all the lands;

For prime ministerial gaffes, inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, and a refusal to pull our weight in reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Awesome.

For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share;

But we won’t have any of those Boat People! You know, those people who are fleeing from war, persecution, oppression? People legitimately seeking asylum under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Australia helped to draft in 1948? We won’t have those. I mean, they’ve just come across the seas in the wrong way. If they’d arrived by plane and with money, that would have been fine. But obviously anyone desperate enough to board a boat and make a perilous and uncertain trip to Australia can’t be a real refugee. So we’ll lock them up in offshore detention camps, subject them to even more abuse and trauma, even though the whole world is looking at us in disgust (except maybe PEGIDA in Germany, who think Australian asylum seeker policy is just awesome). No boundless plains to share here.

With courage let us all combine to Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

You know what would actually take courage? Standing up and saying that maybe, Australia Day isn’t a day to be joyful. That maybe, we should take this day to reflect on just how atrocious Indigenous affairs in Australia are. Or how desperately we need to adopt a more humane asylum seeker policy. Or how badly we need to step up to ensure our beautiful land isn’t destroyed in the name of greed and money.

I don’t know about you, but today, there’s nothing joyful to sing about.

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4 thoughts on “An Annotated Australian National Anthem

    1. I’m thinking more along the lines of occupation by anatomically modeen humans, which actually makes 60,000 quite old. What’s your point?

      1. I was counting all human species. It’s true that, in terms of History, 60000 years is old, but in terms of Prehistory is recent. Anyway, I agree with your remarks about which were the first people who arrived Australia, but it sounded to me so recent that I felt I should comment.

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