Indigenous NRL All Stars captain Cody Walker and NRL legend and Australian head coach Mal Meninga have called for a change to the Australian national anthem.

The NRL sparked debate on Friday, during an All Stars match, when a number of players on the Indigenous All Stars team stood in silence during the singing of Advance Australia Fair. 

The team went on to defeat New Zealand‘s Maori All Stars. 

Indigenous All Star captain Cody Walker said he felt uncomfortable singing the anthem, post-match.

Walker said the national anthem “doesn’t represent myself and my family”. 

“It just brings back so many memories of what happened [in Australia’s past],” he continued adding, “We as a group need to come together, as a country … and make some sort of decision together [around the anthem].” 

On Saturday, following Walker’s comments, Meninga penned an opinion piece on NRL.com in which he called for a referendum on the national anthem in order for the country to agree on a “true and contemporary song for Australia now.” 

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.

“Australia is a multicultural society so it should be a multicultural anthem in my opinion. A lot of country now is third and fourth generation Australia,” he continued.

In 2017, the NRL read out an alternative anthem as a poem during the NRL Indigenous round.

The song, written by Judith Durham and Mutti Mutti man Kutcha Edwardin 2009, begins: “Australians let us stand as one, upon this sacred land. / A new day dawns, we’re moving on to trust and understand.” 

Combine our ancient history and cultures everywhere,
To bond together for all time, advance Australia fair.
With loving hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Source: SBS
Image: AAP / DANIEL POCKETT