Meninga backs call for national anthem change
NRL immortal Mal Meninga has thrown his considerable weight behind Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker's call for a change in anthem, citing evolving political and social change as a reason for Australia to go to a referendum on changing the national anthem.
The Indigenous All Stars team did not sing the Australian national anthem ahead of their clash with the New Zealand Maori All Stars on Friday night at AAMI Park in Melbourne, dividing rugby league fans.
The pre-game entertainment was a rich celebration of Aboriginal and Maori cultures, but many fans could not look past the moment Channel 9 cameras showed seemingly the entire Indigenous team choosing not to sing Advance Australia Fair after the New Zealand side had earlier sung God Defend New Zealand.
Meninga called for the referendum in a column he penned yesterday on the NRL website.
"I can't see any reason why we can't ask all of Australia once again what is a true and contemporary song for Australia now," Meninga wrote.
"Let's have a referendum."
Meninga said Australia has in the past voted on the anthem, in 1974 and '77, and now it was again the time to consider whether Advance Australia Fair was right for the nation.
"That all came about through the nation's consent," Meninga wrote.
"And while the indigenous population has been talking about Advance Australia Fair for a long time, I cannot see why there can't be debate about it again now.
"Times have changed since the last decision was made. We've had major decisions around indigenous Australia, such as native title recognition and cultural heritage being revived.
"We've had the national Sorry Day, so Australians - all Australians - are very aware of our national history, maybe more aware than they were before.
"So we can have a national debate and let the people of Australia have their say.
"If we have a national anthem that offends our indigenous people, let's see what all of Australia thinks."
Walker called for the national anthem to be changed, saying the current song didn't "represent myself and my family".
"To be honest, no," Walker said when asked if he was comfortable standing for the Australian anthem.
"It just brings back so many memories of what's happened (in Australia's past).
"It's something that everyone as a group and everyone in Australia need to get together and working something out.
"It doesn't represent myself and my family."
The NRL has also come under fire for deciding to play the Australian national anthem before the match after recent calls from NRL great and boxing star Anthony Mundine for NRL players to boycott the Australian national anthem.
"The anthem was written in late 1700s where blackfullas (sic) were considered fauna (animals) Advance Australia Fair as in white not fair as in fair go," Mundine wrote on Facebook.
"All players aboriginal & non aboriginal should boycott the anthem & start changing Australia's ignorant mentality ... lets move forward together yo."
NRL fans flocked to social media on Friday night to both criticise the NRL and the Indigenous players.
NRL.com reported earlier this week that the NRL had hoped to sing the Australian national anthem in the language of the Wurundjeri people - the traditional custodians of the land where the city of Melbourne was established.
Unfortunately, the anthem has never been translated into the Woiwurrung language.
In the NRL's Indigenous Round last year, the Australian anthem ws performed in several Aboriginal languages before matches.
Meanwhile, Former NRL player Joe Williams also made a public plea for the national anthem to be boycotted.
"Imagine if a couple of guys did it on grand final day - what a powerful message it would send to white Australia," Williams told Rugby League Week.
"It would bring all the racism that's in the closet to the surface - the racism we have to put up with every day. The way we are treated in shops, the way people look at us on the street and the way the government treats us.
"It's time it stopped. And our footballers are role models and the ideal ones to bring about change."
The Indigenous team went on to perform a spirited and powerful war cry, led by Roosters star Latrell Mitchell as a dramatic response to the New Zealand team's haka.