http://www.visiontimes.com/?p=86690

Why Deborah Cheetham Declined to Sing the Australian National Anthem

Deborah Cheetham, a  Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer, and educator. (Image:  Visit Melbourne via YouTube/Screenshot )
Deborah Cheetham, a Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer, and educator. (Image: Visit Melbourne via YouTube/Screenshot )

Deborah Cheetham is a Melbourne-based opera singer who turned down the invite to sing Advance Australia Fair, Australia’s national anthem, last month at the 2015 AFL Grand Final.

She was honored and grateful to be asked to sing at such a prestigious event, but struggled with the lyrics in the anthem “for we are young and free,” so offered to replace these words with “in peace and harmony.” The AFL considered this, but could not agree so Deborah Cheetham had to kindly decline.

To sing the lyrics “for we are young and free” doesn’t seem to include all Australians.

Australia isn’t a young country. The Aboriginal population have been around for 50,000, or some might argue 70,000, years. So from this perspective, Australia isn’t young; the colonization of Australia is much younger, but this lyric doesn’t seem to be inclusive or recognize the traditional owners. And perhaps it is time we start to embrace this accumulated wisdom and culture from our first nation people.

Deborah Cheetham offers an alternative lyric "in peace and harmony." (Image via YouTube Screenshot)

Deborah Cheetham offers an alternative lyric “in peace and harmony.” (Image via YouTube Screenshot)

Cheetham encouraged Australians to embrace their maturity and replace “for we are young and free” with “in peace and harmony,” or take a look at some alternative lyrics for the entire Australian National Anthem that Cheetham helped with in 2009 in collaboration with legendary Judith Durham and Muti Muti singer-songwriter Kutcha Edwards.

Take your time to read them below — they are beautiful and inclusive:

Australia, celebrate as one, with peace and harmony.
Our precious water, soil and sun, grant life for you and me.
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts to love, respect, and share,
And honoring the Dreaming, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.
Australia, 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 joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.
Australia, let us strive as one, to work with willing hands.
Our Southern Cross will guide us on, as friends with other lands.
While we embrace tomorrow’s world with courage, truth, and care,
And all our actions prove the words, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.
And when this special land of ours is in our children’s care,
From shore to shore forever more, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance… Australia… fair.

An introduction to Aboriginal Australian Soprano Singer Deborah Cheetham:

Cheetham is a proud Yorta Yorta woman. She wrote, composed, and performed in Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer, a wonderful production by the Short Black Opera Company based on the Cummeragunja walk-off. She is also Associate Dean (Indigenous Development), Faculty of the VCA & MCM, educating our young ones toward a brighter future.

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