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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2261

Senator LINDGREN (Queensland) (22:59): 'Rise up, beautiful country' is the direct translation of a line from Advance Australia Fair into the Yugambeh language. The Yugambeh language is the language group of a number of clans in south-east Queensland, including my own clan of the Mununjali. I rise to speak on the ludicrous use of the dramatically changed version of the Australian national anthem at a university in my home state in Queensland as some form of appeasement for past injustice to Indigenous people.

The Australian national anthem has been sung in many Indigenous languages, with the meaning unchanged. Of course it translates differently to the way languages are formed and what words are available, but generally it can mean the same, for example, in an Aboriginal dialect. In the direct translation from English, it starts as, 'We Australian mob are going to have a good dance. Good young fellows,' or, as we know it, 'Australians let us all rejoice, for we are young and free.' The meaning has not changed. Due to linguistic differences, there may be no direct translation of the word 'rejoice', so it has been replaced with words that mean the same: to have a good dance. Nobody would or should find objection to the language being preserved by adopting words foreign to it and the meaning of the national anthem remaining unchanged.

Many other language groups have also translated the anthem and sung it. As I have said previously, the language of my clan, the Mununjali, would say in translation 'Rise up, beautiful country' instead of 'Advance Australia fair'. No meaning change. Only linguistic differences. We have not sought to change it, but only sought to embrace it and share our language. It has also been sung in English and Indigenous languages accompanied by a didgeridoo. And recently the Waterford primary school students have sung the Yugambeh translation, which is a real way of reviving and preserving our language. On Australia Day this year Jessica Mauboy stood atop Sydney Harbour Bridge and sang the Australian national anthem in both the local Indigenous language and then in English. She sang it proudly, and she sang it unchanged. It was a stirring rendition—both versions. She later said, 'I couldn't be more proud to be an Australian and come from this beautiful country.'

The Indigenous language versions I have referred to have been undertaken by Indigenous people to preserve their language and embrace being Australian, not as a way of easing some form of guilt, intellectual elitism or enlightenment. Yet we now see intellectual elites taking it upon themselves to use a dramatically altered version written by Judith Durham. This result can only push a wedge between cultures in Australia. This version was played instead of the official national anthem at the University of the Sunshine Coast. It was not performed as another song but instead replaced the Australian national anthem. I note in their rush to appear enlightened they have overlooked Torres Strait Island—also Indigenous Australians—as Torres Strait Islanders do not acknowledge the Dreaming, and perhaps the best way to avoid this is to stick to the official translation or the official version.

In World War 1 and World War 2 when Indigenous Australians enlisted they swore allegiance to King George V and VI, respectively. God Save the King was the anthem. It did not make them any less proud to be a soldier, sailor or airman. For today's Indigenous service personnel it is Queen Elizabeth II and the unaltered version of the national anthem, and I do not think they are any less proud of their service. They, like me, have presented arms or saluted to the official version of the Australian national anthem. This does not mean any group, regardless of culture, religion or any form of association, cannot have their anthems or songs. But this is not the national anthem, and it should not be played instead of the national anthem. For an organisation such as a university, that has not given up its own traditions of mortarboards, gowns and titles such as chancellor, they are showing a degree of hypocrisy when they take it upon themselves to use non-traditional and unofficial Australian anthems or national anthems. They retain their traditions and titles but seek to change others'.

Mr President, I ask: did this help Indigenous education, or anybody's education, for that matter? Did a struggling Indigenous high school student suddenly gain sufficient grades to enter a university? Did the grades of a stressed Indigenous university student suddenly rise? Did it make an anxious Indigenous graduate more employable? Did their form of benevolence raise the overall involvement of Indigenous students at university, or were the intellectual elite able to retire to a chancellor's room in a glow of fashionable self-congratulatory hyperbole and ease their self-opposed guilt, sense of superiority or do-gooder attitudes?

For those who harbour internal guilt due to past injustices, or those who think they are doing good, let me say this: you are creating division and resentment. If you want to help, then understand this: Indigenous Australians are underrepresented in tertiary education and overrepresented in welfare and low-paying jobs. We want education, opportunity and employment, not songs.

Songs will not change a single thing. Will playing that song at a Doomadgee State school or in the Doomadgee area change the alcohol problem they struggle with? Will playing that song at Woodridge raise the employment opportunities? Will it help the Quandamooka people of Stradbroke Island have employment when the sand mining is brought to an end?

Other immigrant groups have also sung in their language and also not sought to add in anything about their journey and life in Australia. This is a wonderful way of acceptance of both the new culture and mainstream Australia. The City of Logan proudly boasts over 200 cultures. Are we going to see over 200 different national anthems?

A university is a supposed to be a place of education to build hope for the future. Ask any student: do they like being pointed out as being different or given special attention? Or would they prefer not to be singled out and be accepted like any other university student, and concentrate on study, part-time work and university social life?

What hope is generated from this? I would suggest absolutely none. The hope that universities should be generating is a sound education, with a chance for good employment prospects. Universities are meant to be innovative and places of the future. I conclude by saying, that as an Aboriginal person, I want to see my culture and language preserved and represented, and not used as a political football.

Senate adjourned at 11:06