Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker and rugby league Immortal Mal Meninga have both called for the national anthem to be changed, with Walker saying Advance Australia Fair does not represent him or his family.
The Indigenous All Stars, who won the game 34-14 in front of 18,802 spectators in Melbourne, stood in near silence as Advance Australia Fair was performed, in contrast to the Maori All Stars, who gave a rousing rendition of God Defend New Zealand, which has lyrics in both Maori and English.
After the game, Walker was asked if he felt comfortable singing the anthem.
“To be honest, no,” he said.
“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.
It doesn’t represent myself and my family.”
Walker called for all Australian’s to make a decision on the national anthem and its use going forward.
“I don’t have the answer, but we as a group probably need to come together and as a country we need to come together and make some sort of decision together,” he said.
Mal Meninga calls for national debate
Kangaroos coach Meninga reinforced Walker’s sentiments, calling for a referendum on the subject in his NRL.com column on Saturday.
“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,” Meninga wrote.
“Let’s have a referendum.”
Meninga said Advance Australia Fair was selected by the Australian public as a national song by survey in 1974 and by plebiscite in 1977, before being officially enshrined as the national anthem in 1984, and that now was the time to have another discussion.
“That all came about through the nation’s consent,” Meninga wrote.
“And while the Indigenous population has been talking about Advance Australia Fair for a long time, I cannot see why there can’t be debate about it again now.
“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.
“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 has experimented with the national anthem during Indigenous events in the past, playing a version of the anthem with alternate lyrics during the 2017 Indigenous round.
During last season’s Indigenous round, the national anthem was translated into a variety of local Indigenous languages and performed before kick off.
Earlier in the week, the NRL website reported that the anthem was set to be sung in the local Murundjeri language, but those plans were scuppered when it emerged that no translation existed.
How athletes respond to national anthems has become a hot topic in sports around the world, with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick only recently settling a dispute with the NFL over controversy sparked by him kneeling during the playing of Star Spangled Banner in 2016.
The NFL also announced that players would be fined for not standing during the national anthem.
Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley said it was “certainly a discussion worth having”.
“I think obviously for us it’s all about the game and that’s something that we’ll have a chat about further down the track,” he said.
“But it is an issue that Australia is facing and I’m sure that tonight will be one of the reasons why we have a discussion going forward about what we do.”