NRL legend Mal Meninga has backed the Indigenous players who refused to sing the Australian national anthem in the lead up to the NRL All Stars game.
As ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was played during the pre-game at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday night, more than half the of the side snubbed the anthem.
Meninga has since taken the controversy up a notch and put out a call for the anthem to be changed.
NRL legend Mal Meninga (pictured) has backed the Indigenous All-Stars after the team refused to sing the Australian national anthem in the lead up to their clash against New Zealand
As ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was played during the pre-game at AAMI Park in Melbourne the team snubbed the anthem and remained silent on Friday night
In a column he penned on the NRL website, Meninga cited evolving political and social change as the driving force behind the push for a referendum on the matter.
‘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. Let’s have a referendum,’ Meninga wrote.
Meninga pointed out the country had voted on the anthem several times in the past – once in 1974 and again three years later. He said that time had come again.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.’
The NRL also copped criticism for choosing to play the national anthem in the lead up to the match in light of heavy criticism from NRL great Anthony Mundine.
‘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.
Indigenous skipper Cody Walker (pictured) said post-match that he wasn’t comfortable with a version of the Australian anthem being played at the game
Just minutes after more than half the team had refused to sing the anthem, they united on the AAMI Stadium turf for an Indigenous war dance – led by their 21-year-old star Latrell Mitchell
‘All players aboriginal & non aboriginal should boycott the anthem & start changing Australia’s ignorant mentality … lets move forward together yo.’
Indigenous skipper Cody Walker said post-match that he wasn’t comfortable with a version of the Australian anthem being played at the game.
‘To be honest no (it shouldn’t be played) – it just brings back so many memories from what’s happened and I think everyone in Australia needs to get together and work something out,’ he said.
‘It doesn’t represent me and my family.’
The strong opposition to the national anthem divided those watching on TV at home, with plenty taking to social media to have their say on the stance.
‘Reconciliation is a two way street… (but) I didn’t see one aboriginal sing the national anthem,’ one man commented.
‘Pretty disappointed to see most of the Australian Indigenous team not sing our national anthem. The Maori boys sang theirs,’ another said.
But while some disagreed with the stance, others claimed it was inappropriate to be playing the national anthem at a game involving two indigenous sides.
‘Why on earth would you sing the commonwealth-based Aussie anthem in an Indigenous game?’ one woman wrote on Twitter.
The Indigenous All Stars defeated the Maori All Stars 34-14 in front of 18,000 fans
The strong stance by the Indigenous All Stars team divided rugby league fans, with hundreds sharing their view on the matter on social media (Pictured)
‘I’m so proud of the Aboriginal team during the NRL All Stars game anthem. Advance Australia Fair was written during a time the indigenous weren’t considered humans… Why should they sing a song that does not represent them?’ commented another.
‘NRL completely missed the mark with the AU Anthem for the NRL All Stars and players reaction (or lack of) said it all,’ one man wrote.
But just minutes after more than half the team had refused to sing the anthem, they united on the AAMI Stadium turf for a war dance.
Led by their 21-year-old star Mitchell, the players performed the impressive dance to cheers from the local crowd.
By contrast the majority of the Maori All Stars team sung the whole of New Zealand’s national anthem, which includes a Maori verse.
Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley said during his post-match interview that the stance by his players was part of a greater ‘issue’.
‘I think it’s certainly a discussion worth having, and I think it will happen,’ Daley said.
‘I think for us tonight it’s probably not the right arena to discuss it. That’s something we will have a chat about further down the track, but it is an issue that Australia is facing.
‘I’m sure tonight will be one of the reasons we have a discussion going forward about what we do.’
The Indigenous All Stars defeated the Maori All Stars 34-14 in front of 18,000 fans.
WHY DID THE MAORI SIDE SING AND THE INDIGENOUS TEAM NOT?
Australia’s national anthem Advance Australia Fair was written in the 1870s but did not replace God Save The Queen as the official anthem until 1984.
The song – written by Scottish composer Peter Dodds McCormick – has been called noninclusive for not having an Indigenous verse.
By contrast the New Zealand national anthem, when played at sporting and major events, regularly begins with a verse from the Maori anthem ‘Aotearoa’.
It is followed by a verse from the English version of the New Zealand anthem.
New Zealand anthem – Maori verse (translated)
O Lord, God,
Of all people
Listen to us,
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow
New Zealand anthem – English verse
God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.
Australian national anthem – Advance Australia Fair
Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts, Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.