Over the weekend, the Wallabies sang national anthem ‘Advance Australia Fair’ in the Indigenous language of the Eora people at the team’s Tri-Nations match against Argentina at Bankwest Stadium.
The performance was lead by young Wiradjuri woman Olivia Fox from Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, who began her soaring rendition in Eora over a sparse acoustic guitar, with the team joining behind her. They then performed the anthem in English.
— Wallabies (@wallabies) December 5, 2020
“We were practising [the Eora version] during the week and… there was never a question – proud to have the opportunity to do it,” commented team captain Michael Hooper following the game.
Wallabies great Matt Giteau called the rendition a “special moment in Australian sport”, and it was also commended by Indigenous rugby player Kurtley Beale.
But while the performance was widely praised across social media, Indigenous NRL star Latrell Mitchell and boxer Anthony Mundine both criticised the rendition, acknowledging that changing the language the anthem is sung in doesn’t change its meaning.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mundine called the anthem the “theme song for the White Australia policy”.
“The message of the anthem is wrong. It was putting salt into the wound for Aboriginal men… If they want to change things then actually change the words of the anthem. But you can’t just sing the same original text in Aboriginal language and think it’s going to fly with people,” Mundine told the newspaper.
“It got people talking but it still ain’t the right message. It looks good and sounded good when the Wallabies sung it and it looks like they’re giving back — but they’re not really giving back.”