Friday, January 01, 2021

National Anthem change to ‘One and Free’ on Australia’s birthday

Today, Australia celebrates 120 years as a federated nation. However, this morning Prime Minister Morrison announced a change to second line of Advance Australia Fair from ‘For we are young and free’ to ‘For we are one and free’. He stated “[One and Free] recognises the distance we have travelled as a nation”. 
I agree.

This small lyrical change is another step towards the independence and inclusivity of Australia.


We are Australian” by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton is a popular Australian song that cekbrates the diversity of Australian society through the line “I am, you are, we are Australians”. In 2020, we are one, but we are also many.


In 1900, after years of drafting and debating, Australia’s Constitution was passed by the British Parliament and given royal assent by Queen Victoria in July; Australia’s six British colonies were destined to become one nation on 1 January 1901.


It had been determined that the ceremony proclaiming the Inauguration of the Commonwealth would occur in Sydney.

In 1901, Australia considered itself a ‘young’ country that was still tightly bound to Britain in terms of its people, economy, military and politics. Over the past 120 year’s Australia has matured as a nation and, as our Prime Minister announced today, we are no longer ‘young’.

Today Britain stepped away from the European Union. If Brexit is now a reality, surely it must be time for Australia to ‘cut the apron string’ with Britain and Ausexit.  

In 1901, there were close to 4 million people living in Australia and none had ever seen a party like the one held on Tuesday, 1 January 1901. Huge crowds gathered in the cities to take part in celebrations.

In Sydney, an eight-kilometre procession made up of brass bands, floats and important citizens wound through the city streets, which were lined with half a million people waving the Union Jack. A crowd of nearly 60,000 people gathered in Sydney’s Centennial Park to witness the proclamation of the Federal Constitution, uniting six former British colonies as one Commonwealth of Australia.

Centennial Park, Sydney. 1 January 1901.

As part of the ceremony, Queen Victoria’s official proclamation was read by Australia’s first Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, and Federal ministers were then sworn in after a twenty-one gun salute. Australia’s first prime minister, Sir Edmund Barton, declared ‘A continent for a nation and a nation for a continent’

1 January 1901 was the first day of Australia as a nation and the first day of the new century. The significance of the day was clear to all Australians. The day was one long celebration, with spectacle, parade and festivities.

Advance Australia Fair was adopted as the national anthem for the second time thirty years ago on 19 April 1984 by Bob Hawke’s Labor Government. It had first been chosen by the Whitlam Government in 1974 and later rejected by the Fraser Government.

Previous to this, the Australian national anthem was “God Save the Queen”. Like many things, it took a second attempt before the reform took hold.

In 1973, a competition was held for a distinctively Australian national anthem.

The Australian National Anthem Quest was run in two stages by the Australia Council for the Arts. The first stage for lyrics attracted more than 1,400 entries. The second stage for music received 1200 entries. A prize of $5,000 was offered for each stage.

However, the judges decided the entries did not meet the high standards of Australia’s traditional songs Advance Australia Fair, Waltzing Matilda and Song of Australia. The Australia Council for the Arts recommended the final choice for the national anthem should be made from these three songs.

The Bureau of Statistics ran a national poll of 60,000 people. Advance Australia Fair was favoured by 51.4% of people surveyed, followed by Waltzing Matilda at 19.6%.

But the decision did not stick. A change of government brought God Save the Queen back into use.

In May 1977, the Fraser Liberal Government had the Australian Electoral Office conduct a poll, or plebiscite for the national anthem in conjunction with a referendum. Advance Australia Fair was the clear favourite with 43.3% of the vote, ahead of Waltzing Matilda with 28.3%, and God Save the Queen at 18.8%, and Song of Australia on 9.6%.

Yet even that overwhelming vote did not see an Australian anthem restored — until 19 April 1984.

Just why Australian governments are so slow to assert Australian independence is hard to fathom. There was no popular mandate for God Save the Queen, just as there is no popular mandate any more for the constitutional link to the British monarchy. But time will catch up with even the slowest urge to reform.

Australia is now in every sense a nation, with our Parliament fully in control of our affairs at least since the Australia Act of 1986, when the ability of the UK Parliament at Westminster to legislate for us was finally ended, as was legal appeals to the Privy Council in Westminster.

One reform remains.

We need our own head of state — someone who represents us, our national values, character and identity. The Queen does this for the UK, but that is her full time job and she can’t ever hope to truly represent modern Australia. And neither will her heirs, even if they so wanted to. 

It will, likewise, take a second attempt to cut Australia’s final Constitutional link to the British monarchy, to reflect the full independence that Australians already feel in their hearts.

The question is not whether this will happen, but when.



Monday, December 21, 2020

Vale – Doug Anthony, a great Australian republican

Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Doug Anthony died, aged 90, on Sunday 20 December 2020.

Doug Anthony was a “quiet giant of Australian political life” and was known as the nation's longest-served deputy prime minister and a supporter of an Australian republic.

Ahead of the 1999 republic referendum, Doug Anthony surprised many within the National Party by backing the break from the constitutional monarchy.

I think the time has arrived for Australia to be truly independent. While we have the monarch as part of our constitution, we are carrying a relic of the past.”

Anthony was the member for Richmond for nearly 30 years, leader of the Country party, later renamed the National Party, for 12 years and deputy prime minister for nearly 10, influencing Coalition policies for much of the 1970s and 80s. He served under six prime ministers, starting with Sir Robert Menzies.

Among others to pay tribute, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described Anthony as 'a great Australian'.

“An eloquent and committed advocate for an Australian republic often sharing a platform with his Liberal partner Malcolm Fraser and their old Labor rivals Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke”.

Vale – Doug Anthony, a great Australian republican.

DAAS: The Big Gig - I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Friday, November 06, 2020

Preambles - imagining the republic

6 November 2020 marks the 21st anniversary of the unsuccessful referendum that asked Australian voters whether Australia should become a republic and whether the Preamble to the Australian Constitution should be changed.

The republic referendum was soundly defeated with the ACT the only jurisdiction voting in favour. Yet at the time, public opinion polls showed a majority of Australians supported a republic. 

So why did the referendum fail? 

Many would argue that the YES campaign, headed by Malcolm Turnbull, foolishly split the YES vote by insisting that Australia’s head of state should be chosen by Parliament rather than by direct election. This was a very divisive issue with memories of the Whitlam dismissal still fresh in the minds of many voters.

The idea of inserting a new constitutional preamble emerged gradually as a significant issue in the republic debate of the 1990s, culminating in the Constitutional Convention held in Canberra in February 1998. Within two years of the Constitutional Convention, a new preamble drafted by Prime Minister John Howard and poet Les Murray was put to the people in a national referendum, and quite rightly, rejected.


On 8 June 2003 the Preamble Project was launched at the Museum of Sydney as a conversation between the writer James Bradley and other republicans about the need to provide some imaginative foundation for the ongoing debate about an Australian Republic. In the course of that conversation the idea was floated of inviting several writers to draft preambles to a republican Constitution as a way of giving voice to some of the deeper impulses an Australian Republic might embody.

In the creation of an Australian Republic, the underlying source of authority is the democratic will of the Australian people. The Constitution of that Republic will be the expression of that will and embodies our values and aspirations. And so, in setting forth its unifying purpose the preamble to a republican Constitution must give voice to the deeper impulses that underlie its creation. It must, in other words, tell us the story of who we are.

Six writers offered individual statements reflecting their vision for Australia, its land and people.

1. James Bradley begins his statement with a pledge of allegiance to "the land, the sea [and] the sky".

2. Peter Carey declares that Australia is a nation "engendered by a foreign king, by foreign wars, by happenstance [and] by a once great empire which also bequeathed us our first rich cultural inheritance". Perhaps predictably for a writer who has spent his career probing the ambiguities in the Australian national identity, he chooses to make clear the contradictions in our past and our present, exhorting us to draw strength from these contradictions, and to recognise in them the bond that we must make if we are to draw strength from ourselves.

3. For Richard Flanigan the preamble becomes something more like a national prayer, an exhortation to find meaning in our past and in the land that we share, and to make ourselves anew through the medium of our shared love of that land. It is unashamedly romantic, not just in its language and imagery, but with its explicit belief in the idea of the republic as an act of the imagination.

4/5. Delia Falconer and Dorothy Porter by contrast offer more plainsong approaches to the question. Delia Falconer compresses her feelings into a single sentence, trying to draw together the many impulses a republic might embody, acting finally to remind our elected representatives that their power stems from our will, and no higher source. Dorothy Porter also seeks to express the values the republic might embody by reference to the popular will, but unlike Delia Falconer she chooses to couch her contribution in a series of commitments we choose to make as one people, commitments as to what we will try to be, thus transforming itself into a statement of principles, giving heed to our history only as a thing from which we might learn, but never be hostage to.

6. Leah Purcell's contribution opens in the language of the Kamilaroi and Gungarri people and continues in English, calling for respect for pioneers, immigrants, the land and its first peoples. Eschewing grand gestures altogether it enjoins us all to a shared respect for each other's rights and histories, thereby providing a basis for the trust upon which a Republic might find itself.

Through productive discussions of what sort of preamble we would like to have comes a discussion of the meaning an Australian Republic might ultimately hold for all of us.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Wattle Day for an inclusive Australia Day

THE FIRST DAY OF SEPTEMBER has many names. Some welcome it as spring’s dawn, a time to celebrate nature’s renewal. For others, it is National Wattle Day — a time when the smells of spring are in the air as well as Australia's vivid gold blossom.

In Australia, the wattle is the largest genus of flowering plants. In Australia, you could plant two or three different wattles for every day of the year and still have plenty left over, for Australia has more acacia species than the year has days. These acacias are extremely diverse and found in habitats from rainforest to arid lands.

I have written before on how Wattle Day is celebrated annually on the first day of spring. A sprig of Australia's national floral emblem, the golden wattle – Acacia pycnantha – is traditionally worn on the first day of spring. The green and gold of wattle leaves and blossoms were declared our national colours in 1984; in 1988, the wattle was adopted as the official national flower; and National Wattle Day was formally declared on 1 September 1992.

Australians may have made a home for themselves among the gum trees, but it is the wattle tree that has found its way into Australian republican symbolism. In 1993, the Australian Republic Movement gave its support to Wattle Day celebrations being held throughout Australia on 1 September. Wattle captures something crucial to the success of the republic — feeling for country. It is a unifying symbol.

September 1 marks the 28th anniversary of the declaration of National Wattle Day, as well as the 27th anniversary of the Australian Republic Movement giving its support to National Wattle Day celebrations throughout Australia.

Wattle Day has been celebrated annually on the first day of spring since 1910. However, the first known use of wattle as a meaningful emblem in the Australian colonies was in Hobart Town in 1838, when a resident suggested wearing a sprig of wattle to celebrate the golden jubilee of the landing at Sydney Cove. In this seemingly small gesture lay a suggestion of an independent Australia.

Wattle is a broad and inclusive symbol of an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry. It grows in all parts of Australia, differing varieties flowering throughout the year. This democracy of wattles – the fact that they grow in all states – was the overpowering reason why the wattle and not the waratah was chosen as the floral emblem in the early 20th Century.

Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said: “I am from this land. This place is home.”

It is a symbol that comes directly from our land. Wattle is Australian and represents us all. Like the Southern Cross, the appeal of wattle is not first and foremost to the idea of nation — but to the idea of place.

In 2017, Terry Fewtrell, President of the Wattle Day Association, proposed in the Sydney Morning Herald that:

We could link National Wattle Day, with Australia Day as joint days on which we celebrate Australia, this land, its waters and environment, its people and our nation. National Wattle Day would not compete with Australia Day, rather it would complete Australia Day. It would do what Wattle has always done — unite us.

Perhaps we could also see its blossoms as a metaphor for the land waving its flag to remind us to care properly for it. It is precisely wattle’s long presence in and deep association with the land that sets it apart as a national symbol and endows it with added meaning.

Wattle touches all levels of society.

Early pioneers and World War I diggers were buried with a customary sprig of wattle. Then Governor-General Sir William Deane took wattle blossoms to Switzerland to commemorate young Australians who died there. Prime Minister John Howard also wore sprigs of wattle at ceremonies after the Bali bombings.

Terry Fewtrell said in a 2014 Australia Day speech that:

“...wattle has journeyed with us in kitbags, pockets and letters to places that become synonymous with our shared story; be they Gallipoli, Kokoda or Swiss canyons."

Australian athletes wear wattle-inspired green and gold uniforms and those honoured with an Order of Australia receive awards with an insignia designed around the wattle flower.

Let’s all take a moment this National Wattle Day and reflect on the wattle flower which symbolises an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry.

So, when the blaze of wattle lights up the Australian landscape each year, let’s all remember that the wattle is a symbol of our land that unites us all.

The golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha is already our national floral emblem. Why not extend the symbolism a step further? Wattle Day may be the answer to the debate around celebrating Australia Day on January 26. Spring represents hope and renewal, so needed in our nation right now and in the foreseeable future. But above all, 1 September would be so much more inclusive.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Swipe Right on an Australian republic

Student filmmakers from across the nation recently described why it’s so important for Australia to gain its independence from the British Monarchy, as part of the 'Sixty Seconds for a Republic competition'.

Stoked that one of my Year 12 History students won the 'Sixty Second for a Republic' competition with this creative entry explaining why we should swipe right on an Australian republic.