Spotlight on our anthem

By Shepparton News

Should a nine-year-old receive a detention for refusing to sing the national anthem? It is a question that has vexed the nation.

Such are the important issues of the day.

Headlines have been written, hundreds of centimetres of print devoted, hours of discussion on television and radio, storms of attack and counterattack on social media, and now, unironically, an editorial in The News.

That is not to say the issue of the national anthem is not important.

Supporters cite such symbols as crucial to the nation’s sense of identity and unity. The Australian flag attracts similar devotion and reverence, and similar debate. As does the date of Australia Day.

Detractors, such as nine-year-old Harper Nielsen, claim the anthem ‘‘completely disregards indigenous Australians’’, criticising the lyrics for assuming the nation to be a young country when its history stretches back 50000 years.

The debate about the national anthem is nothing new, although the status of the anthem arguably is, having been selected only a generation ago to replace God Save the Queen.

Waltzing Matilda ran a close second, and it is difficult to imagine what young Harper would make of those lyrics.

More recently, I am Australian has gained in popularity, partially thanks to Telstra and ABC advertisements, and it cannot be denied that particular song has its merits.

On the surface, we initially dismissed young Harper’s stance and the debate it has generated, but she might be on to something.

If we could change our national anthem as recently as 1984, there is little in the way of changing it again.

On a different level, debating the merits of our national symbols seems to have evolved into something as Australian as the symbols themselves.