Pauline Hanson, pick on someone your own size, ya drongo

Wow. Australia has the same unthinking conservative dimwits we have over here. It’s like we’re sister countries or something. Of course, we also have some of the same thoughtful people of conscience, like Harper Nielsen.

Harper Nielsen, who lives in the state of Queensland, told CNN affiliate Nine News she sat during her country’s national anthem because she believed it was disrespectful to Indigenous Australians.
The anthem, titled “Advance Australia Fair,” …

Hold on a minute, I did not know the name of your national anthem.”Advance Australia Fair“? Unless the song is about promoting a seasonal carnival with farmers showing off their prize sheep, that title alone is stunningly racist. So racist that a 9-year-old school kid noticed. At least we Americans have the excuse that no one ever sang the third stanza of our national anthem, but you put the bigotry right up there in the title.

A plain-spoken people, those Australians.

… contains the line “Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free.”

“(But) when it says Advance Australia Fair, it means advance the white people,” the 9-year-old student told Nine News.

“And when it says ‘we are young’ it completely disregards the indigenous Australians who were here before us for 50,000 years.”

She seems like a thoughtful, principled young lady. Good for her. A healthy democracy thrives on an intelligent, informed citizenry that constantly questions and works to improve society.

But then…

This craven politician wants to “give her a kick up the backside” and have her expelled from school? And claims Harper Neilsen has been brainwashed? You know what’s brainwashing: it’s have repetitive patriotic platitudes recited at you every day, and being force to participate in mindless rituals. Hanson claims it’s “about who we are”. OK. You have a choice. You can be like Harper Neilsen and think about what it means to be a conscientious citizen of your nation, or you can be like Pauline Hanson and demand servile, thoughtless obedience to dogmatic loyalty oaths.

If you choose the latter, you get the bonus of being able to beat up little girls. This may appeal to many people, unfortunately.


  1. jrkrideau says

    From what I have read, Pauline Hanson is a nutty, highly racist, alt-right, kind of politician, leader of the far-right One Nation party which seems to be fringe party but which under Australia’s rather complicated electoral system has won some seat. She would be right at home with the far-right of the US GOP.

    I am somewhat surprised that she did not advocate flogging as well.

    It is not surprising that she made that video. It is clearly designed to get votes from the type of Australians who in the USA would be part of Trump’s base.

  2. jonmelbourne says

    Fun fact: You can sing the words of Advance Australia Fair to the theme from Gilligan’s Island.

  3. bargearse says

    Sadly it’s not just Hanson. The Murdoch press and talk radio have been hammering at this girl which was predictable. Worse yet the school has come down on her hard.

  4. aziraphale says

    The anthem dates from 1878. At that time “fair” was an accepted poetic synonym for “beautiful”, if somewhat archaic.

  5. Holms says

    Hold on a minute, I did not know the name of your national anthem.”Advance Australia Fair“? Unless the song is about promoting a seasonal carnival with farmers showing off their prize sheep, that title alone is stunningly racist.

    No it isn’t. Recall that there are other meanings to the word, even if they are not commonly used these days. Specifically:
    5. marked by favoring conditions; likely; promising

    It is entirely understandable that the rising generation is not familiar with this relatively old-fashioned use of the word, but what is the excuse of the adults? All that was required was someone grabbing a dictionary and pointing this out to the promisingly civic-minded youngster. Shame on everyone that excoriated a nine year old, and doubly so for the powerful that did so from their nationally prominent platform.

    And, oh my fucking god, Pauline Hanson, what a sack of shit. She’s been our national shame since then 90s, when she told asians to go back where they came from (she’s white) and that we could solve budgetary issues by printing more money. She’s a Trump fan by the way. I know! Shocker.

  6. ajbjasus says

    Sorry but I would not ever have thought that “fair” in this context meant white, blonde, or anything to do with skin colour, but along the lines aziraphale cites at #7. I live in the north of England, and we also use “fair” to describe reasonably pleasant weather or as a response to Q “how are you doing” – A “fair to middlin”.

    That it can be interpreted otherwise with modern usage is unfortunate, but I don’t think the “White skinned Australia” interpretation was originally intended. The girl shouldn’t be bullied in this way though – it seems like a good opportunity for a lesson at the school on how languages change, and how something could then become offensive

    However the “A young Australia” was intended at the outset, and is very good cause for protest.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    The only thing racist about “fair” is that one of its meanings has become “blond, blonde, or light-coloured”. But even with that meaning, it almost always acts as a qualifier for “complexion”, “skin” or “hair”. That certainly is not the meaning in the song. Actually, I find it stunning that anyone would think so. Maybe I’m archaic. Fair dinkum.

    Anyway, what Holms said about the young person, and about ‘anson the ‘orrible.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 11 Tabby Lavalamp

    Europe didn’t send its best people to the Americas or Australia.

    Of course they did, well at least Britain did. A bit of oppression and starvation sent the Scots and Irish out in droves. Great people.

    Imperial Russia seems to have done the same.

    I must say, I have always taken “Fair” in this context to mean “Beautiful”. I cannot see how one could interpret it as ” White”.

  9. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Regardless of the meaning of “fair”, the message of the song is pretty clearly, “hey, everyone, come to Australia, there’s lots of uninhabited land here (just ignore the natives)”:

    We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
    To make this Commonwealth of ours, Renowned of all the lands;
    For those who’ve come across the seas, We’ve boundless plains to share

    So yeah, not racist if you believe colonialism wasn’t racist.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    I too am guilty of thinking that “fair” was old-timey for “beautiful” without making the racial connection. Oh well, strike another word from my vocabulary.

  11. jrkrideau says

    @ 16 Akira MacKenzie
    Where I live in Canada we use the word in much the same way as @10 ajbjasus.

    I have no intention to drop it from my vocab.

  12. says

    I’m with the “beautiful” contingent — not that white Australians’ treatment of the Natives was any better than ours in America (although I don’t recall that they engaged in deliberate genocide).

    At any rate, the reaction from Hanson is about what one could expect from a Nazi wannabe, Trump variety. I fault the school for its reaction, though, but then school administrators these days seem to be drawn from the dregs. (My father was a school administrator, and a good one — he never would have reacted like that.)

  13. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Here’s what the Online Etymology Dictionary has to say about “fair” (my bolding):

    Old English fæger “pleasing to the sight (of persons and body features, also of objects, places, etc.); beautiful, handsome, attractive,” of weather, “bright, clear, pleasant; not rainy,” also in late Old English “morally good,” from Proto-Germanic *fagraz (source also of Old Saxon fagar, Old Norse fagr, Swedish fager, Old High German fagar “beautiful,” Gothic fagrs “fit”), perhaps from PIE *pek- (1) “to make pretty” (source also of Lithuanian puošiu “I decorate”).

    The meaning in reference to weather preserves the oldest sense “suitable, agreeable” (opposed to foul (adj.)). Of the main modern senses of the word, that of “light of complexion or color of hair and eyes, not dusky or sallow” (of persons) is from c. 1200, faire, contrasted to browne and reflecting tastes in beauty. From early 13c. as “according with propriety; according with justice,” hence “equitable, impartial, just, free from bias” (mid-14c.).

    So as Rob Grigjanis says, the meaning has become “light of complexion or color of hair and eyes”, as long as you’re ok using the present perfect for something that happened 8 centuries ago.

  14. Holms says

    Yes, and? That use of the word arose 800 years ago, and joined the other ones without replacing them. The other meanings, such as ‘promising, favourable, positive’ have not gone away.

    Surely you don’t think “light of complexion or color of hair (etc.) has been the only meaning of fair for all that time??

  15. says

    Why isn’t the police investigating an adult who threatened to violently assault a child?

    Oh, and all you people who split hairs over what a word means:
    1. You cannot get rid easily of connotations. The connotation was always there, and I#d bet a fucking lot of money that if you all had to do an implicit bias test you’d be a lot faster linking “fair” with images of white people than with images of black people.

    Get fucked. You’re discussing linguistics (while most not being qualified to do so) while a 9 years old girl is being attacked, threatened and dragged through the mud, as if she was the one being wrong here. What is wrong with you?

  16. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    A couple of commentators here implied that it was a fairly new meaning of fair. My point was not that it’s the only meaning, but it has been around for a long time. Also, what Giliell said.

  17. Michael says

    PZ I think you are jumping to the worst context of the word “fair” instead of first considering other options. I was quite puzzled when I read your comment, because when I read the word “fair”, I thought of being fair to others, and didn’t see what was racist about it – although the statement itself is a bit weird. When I read the girl’s comment, I thought “what?” and went to look up the anthem for context. Only then did I realize it meant fair as in beautiful, and the context of that is of the country, not just white people.

    Some Indigenous Australians apparently find the line “we are young and free” offensive, but it seems the main criticism is that the anthem is boring. I’m curious why the young and free line is considered offensive, as I would have taken it as relating to the person/people singing it, rather than being a young country with no history. Would you want to refer to yourself as old and oppressed? Perhaps I just try to assume the best possible light in terms of context, rather than looking for reasons to be offended.

  18. nomadiq says

    I think the use of the word ‘fair’ in our national anthem is the least of its problems. As others have pointed out, the word ‘fair’ does not have a singular meaning. It doesn’t even have a simple dual meaning, so suggesting it either means ‘white’ or refers to Australian harvest festivals at Easter time misses the point entirely. Oh, and I bet most reading this weren’t even aware of the culture of the Easter Fair as our harvest festival in parts of Australia – and if so, maybe reconsider how expert you are at judging the use of words in Australia, especially their historical context. I mean even common grammar would sugggest if fair meant white people, the title would be ‘Advance Australia’s Fair’. Instead, coming after a verb and a noun it seems more likely to be an adverb – although I will admit the title is grammatically weird, even ugly. I kinda get tired of the English language being USsplained to rest of the English speaking world.

    Having said that, our anthem is awful, antiquated, traditionally had an amazingly sexist line in it, and certainly doesn’t demand everyone or anyone stand for it. Funny how young and free didn’t apply to that nine year old girl. Hanson couldn’t get her head around the innate contradictions in patriotism if it was served to her with a freshly fried pile of fish and chips.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    What a Maroon @19:

    So as Rob Grigjanis says, the meaning has become “light of complexion or color of hair and eyes”, as long as you’re ok using the present perfect for something that happened 8 centuries ago.

    No, I said one of the meanings has become that. And yes, I’m as OK with “has become” here as I am with “the meaning of sinister has become, outside of heraldry, “of evil intent””.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    Giliell @21:

    Get fucked

    Right back at you, sunshine. It’s not Advanced Fucking Linguistics. It’s one of very many words in English that can be used in different ways. All the connotations have been there for centuries, and a nine-year-old isn’t too young to have this explained to them. And idiots like Hanson giving the girl a hard time doesn’t magically change that. But it does warrant giving the idiots a swift kick in the arse.

  21. Kreator says

    I’m familiar with controversies over anthems, the Argentinian one has a large section of now unused verses which are actively hostile towards Spain and are now left out in the name of diplomacy (and because it was too damn long otherwise!) The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if the word “fair” was not meant to mean “white,” it more than earns its racist connotations just by taking into account the context of the song. As Michael somewhat dismissively mentioned @#3, Indigenous people have pointed out how the line “young and free” purposefully leaves them out, something which becomes particularly evident if we couple it with this currently unsung section of the lyrics:

    When gallant Cook from Albion sailed,
    To trace wide oceans o’er,
    True British courage bore him on,
    Til he landed on our shore.
    Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
    The standard of the brave;
    “With all her faults we love her still”
    “Britannia rules the wave.”
    In joyful strains then let us sing
    Advance Australia fair.

    If the author wasn’t including Indigenous Australians in his song, he more than likely wasn’t including them in his meaning of “fair” either.

  22. ridana says

    When I hear the word “fair” in such florid contexts, I always think of the Star Trek episode “The Naked TIme” where a swashbuckling Sulu grabs Uhura with “I’ll protect you, fair maiden!” and she indignantly replies, “Sorry, neither.”

    In “10 things you should know about Advance Australia Fair,” I thought #4 was relevant to this discussion (obviously written prior to this recent incident):

    You should know that… Anthony Mundine is not the first person to criticise the anthem

    While US athletes made headlines last year refusing to stand for their national athem and instead, kneeling in down in protest of racism and police brutality, Australia too has used its national song for activist purposes. Last year professional boxer Anthony Mundine created controversy by branding the anthem as “racist” and refusing to stand when it is sung. “It’s a racist anthem and doesn’t represent our people,” Mundine told News Corp.

    Wiradjuri man, Joe Williams, made headlines this time two years ago for refusing to stand for the national anthem after he was named 2016 Wagga Wagga Citizen of the Year on the January 26th celebrations, saying, he does not believe the current anthem represents this country’s First Nations people.

    In a less politically charged protest, others have simply disliked it as a song. In 2001then Nationals Senator, Sandy McDonald, called the song ‘boring’ and said it should be scrapped “before we all go to sleep singing it”.

    Mundine’s not exactly a beacon of liberal views, but it looks to me as an outsider that even if most white Australians don’t see the song as racist, many Aboriginal Australians do, and apparently have for years (Mundine was complaining about it at least as early as 2012, so maybe he was the first). They just haven’t had politicians publicly lining up to kick them in the backside for saying so.

    #8 on their list is also on topic:

    You should know that… there is a debate about what is meant by ‘fair’

    In the self-proclaimed ‘land of the fair-go’ most probably don’t think twice about the use of the word ‘fair’ in our national anthem. However, since we are also a country who made The White Australia Policy our very first piece of legislation after Federation in 1901, it is probably not an unreasonable question to ask.

    In his paper How Fair is Fair? the colour of justice in Australia’s official anthem, writer and academic, Christopher Kelen argues that the kind of ‘fairness’ being repeated with every rendition of the chorus is specifically about the civilising process of the white man. Kelen suggests that either use of the word ‘fair’; beautiful, just or white, the main point the song makes by ‘rejoicing’ the advancement of Australia is one of the Terra Nullius myth, where we don’t want to acknowledge a time before our European coming.

    Given the time period when the song was written, when immigration policy excluded Asians and Pacific Islanders and encouraged “the British race,” it’s hard for me to imagine it not being racist in its original intent.

    Maybe y’all should’ve gone with “Waltzing Matilda” after all. :)

  23. says

    Seachange @29

    Based on that title, I was expecting something like this…

    Because of course the Canadian one is a beer commercial.

    Speaking of anthems though, oh the pearl clutching when parliament voted to change “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command” (all the crying despite it was already changed to the “sons” line from “thou dost in us command”, so it’s a lot like the hand-wringing from people terrified that some people want to to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance south of the border).

    If they flew into a fury over that, they really don’t want to know that some of us also replace “our home and native land” with “our home on native land” and “God keep our land glorious and free” to “let’s keep our land glorious and free.”

  24. says

    Rob Grigjanis

    All the connotations have been there for centuries, and a nine-year-old isn’t too young to have this explained to them.

    Gods what a full of yourself idiot you are.
    You’re so full of yourself that you don’t even notice when you’re shooting yourself in the leg in your attempt to talk about several things you have obviously no clue about.
    Yeah, all the damn connotations which
    a) includes “light coloured skin”
    b) of course makes it all the more damning when “light coloured skin” and “good, just, nice” are eternally paired together.
    So obviously a 9 year old is able to see that.


    Oh shit, the queen of sanctimony is here. Time to be moralised at.

    I’d take it as a compliment if it weren’t from you.
    It’s also duly noted that you’re still not remotely interested in violent threats against a child as long as you can still feel superior to her.

  25. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Rob Grigjanis,

    No, I said one of the meanings has become that.

    Sorry, poorly worded on my part.

    And yes, I’m as OK with “has become” here as I am with “the meaning of sinister has become, outside of heraldry, “of evil intent””.

    I’ll take your word, but I suspect that most English speakers would take “The only thing racist about “fair” is that one of its meanings has become “blond, blonde, or light-coloured”” to imply a recent development.

    In any case, you weren’t the only one I was thinking about; when ajbjasus talks about “modern usage”, that implies that it’s a fairly new meaning for “fair”.

    Re Giliell’s point, it’s pretty well understood that words evoke meanings that go far beyond their dictionary meaning, especially if the context makes the other meaning salient. So even if the word is being used with a different meaning, the context of the song (celebrating the colonization of Australia by white, mostly British settlers) underscores the racist aspect.

  26. vucodlak says

    Whether or not the specific word “fair” was intended to (or does have) racist connotations, it seems pretty clear that the song itself does. Harper Nielsen is quite correct about that and, in any case, it’s pretty despicable to threaten a child with violence.

    I’m not sure why this thread has largely devolved into a discussion about the many possible meanings of the word “fair.” In the context of the rest of the song, and the history involved, there’s a pretty fair decent argument to be made that the word is racist in this instance.

    @ Giliell, #34

    It’s also duly noted that you’re still not remotely interested in violent threats against a child as long as you can still feel superior to her.

    Well, now, I don’t think that’s quite fair. This is a 9 year old girl who won’t stand up, who may be incorrectly interpreting the meaning of a word! Civilization itself may be at stake.

    It’s not like we’re talking about a poor, harmless Nazi, or anything.

  27. Holms says

    Oh shit! Giliell has noted (duly of course, we mustn’t stray from the formulaic phrasing favoured by snide bores everywhere) that my denunciation of Pauline ‘sack of shit’ Hanson’s commentary did not include a line by line fisking. Worse, implying that I accept violence against children on this basis is a obvious sign that you have no interest in dialogue, preferring instead to stir shit. Also, in the interest of fairness, are you going to apply this blatant character assassination tactic against all other commenters who did not single out that line? Please be clear in why you are not doing so.

    And, where did I express superiority to the child? Perhaps you see pomposity everywhere as a result of it being your default setting, because I actually complimented her.

    Gods what a full of yourself idiot you are.

    …Said the German to an Australian about an item of Australian politics. Noice. And possibly also: …Said the non-native english speaker to native english speakers on a matter of english. (Ignore this one if I am wrong about your native language.)

    Giliell, go look up the concept of polysemy.

  28. monad says

    A kick up the backside with The Boot, no doubt. Because now that Trump has become president, every country needs to be as stupid as it was depicted on the Simpsons.

  29. Rich Woods says

    @ridana #32:

    Mundine was complaining about it at least as early as 2012, so maybe he was the first

    I’m going to both announce my complete and utter ignorance of this issue and also suggest that he almost certainly wasn’t the first. 2012? Really?

  30. Rob Grigjanis says

    Holms @37:

    …Said the German to an Australian

    No, no, I’m the “full of himself idiot”, and I will not concede the honour to you. I’m English/Canadian.

  31. jrkrideau says

    @ 33 Tabby Lavalamp
    I had not seen that ad. Not bad, but how well will it translate?

    CBC had an interview with the author of a book on the history of Oh Canada.

    It, at least, the English version has been rewritten any number of times. I don’t think the French version has seen as many revisions.

    The original Oh Canada written in French was commissioned by the St. Jean Baptiste Society.

  32. ridana says

    #39 @ Rich Woods:
    I haven’t researched it thoroughly by any means, hardly at all, but my comment was in the context of what I was quoting (#32), which said he wasn’t the first, but then only gave one other instance (from 2016) that post-dated the first of his complaints that I found (2012). Hence the “maybe he was the first.”

    It seems to me that if it had been at issue before then (and I think that’s almost certain, but what do I know?), the author of the “10 Things” ought to have cited more than one other instance of protest about it.

  33. says

    vucodlak @36

    I’m not sure why this thread has largely devolved into a discussion about the many possible meanings of the word “fair.”

    One thing I’ve learned in recent years is how much work white people – even nominally progressive ones – will put into parsing something racist into being non-racist so we can feel more comfortable that the world is fair and we don’t benefit from undue privilege and white supremacism.

    jrkrideau @41

    It’s easy to sing so I’d have no problem with it become our national anthem, but I’d re-write the lyrics so translating them wouldn’t be a problem.

  34. Rob Grigjanis says

    Tabby Lavalamp @43: Episode the Nth in Lazy Simplistic Pharyngula Diagnoses. “One thing I’ve learned in recent years” is a real killer! Yea, busted. I’m totes about trying to downplay racism because I think PZ’s reading of one line is completely off base.

    Fuck off.

  35. hotspurphd says

    I think fair in the title is an adjective not an adverb since it modifies the noun, Australia.

    “The anthem dates from 1878. At that time “fair” was an accepted poetic synonym for “beautiful”, if somewhat archaic.”
    While others have argued persuasively that the white connotations of the word are likely present , I think it is also likely that when PZ said it was “stunningly racist” he was not thinking of these arguments, like the first few commenters. This seems to me to be another example of people wanting to give the worst spin to things, anything to attack somebody, because it feels so good.

  36. Holms says

    Ah, I think seeing false positive Australians is a byproduct of reading Mano’s comments. For some reason, we make a large fraction of his regular commentary team, and now I have the hazy impression that anyone I see over there is a Schrodinger’s Australian or something. Silly brain.

    Alternatively, the phrasing of the line in question makes clear that the word ‘fair’ is being used in the manner I cited in post #9, and declaring it racist is not well supported by the text. Also, bonus points for declaring preemptively that all people disagreeing with you on this point are secretly not progressives.

  37. says

    Poorlean Hanson isn’t the only one to beat up little girls. The extreme right schlock jock Alan Jones who has thankfully just had a $4miillion damages award against him for defamation and the equally obnoxious Mark Latham, a failed candidate for PM have all attacked her. In Pauine’s case she started her political career attacking Australian Aborigines, progressed to vilifying Asians before targeting Muslims. I guess little girls aren’t quite so scary. Oh and as for the anthem being racist, it does ignore the original owners and declares us all to be Britain’s sons even though more than 50% of us don’t have British ancestry and slightly more than half of us are female. So racist and sexist. As for the bloody flag it also has the flag of the Unenlightened Kingdom in the top left corner so its hardly Australian. I was one of those unfortunate children forced to recite a daily oath of allegiance to god, queen at country at school assemblies. when it got to the bit about “I salute the flag” many of us instead recited “I shoot the flag”.

  38. DanDare says

    Most folks I know here in Oz think that “fair” is used as in “fair and reasonable” and “we are young” is meant as in “a young nation”. Israel would be younger.

    That being said if there are first peoples here who find it racist and oppressive I’m all for getting rid of it. I was on the side of Waltzing Matilda since everyone knew it and it would lampoon the whole pomposity of anthems.

    Pauline on the other hand, oh boy. Anyone see her recent BS about the moon and sun causing climate change and nobody has checked to see if the scientists are making any sense?

  39. DanDare says

    Oh and I’m on Harpers side having done more or less the same thing many decades ago. I wouldn’t salute the flag. The principle of the school gave me indefinite detention in his office which was fun. The playground had no shade and he and I argued politics which I liked even then.

  40. graham2 says

    Im from OZ, and like the others here from the same place, have always assumed that ‘fair’ meant ‘pleasant’ etc. You shouldn’t judge others so quickly.

  41. says

    “we are young” is meant as in “a young nation”.

    And… I think that Nielsen wasn’t unaware of that.

    when it says ‘we are young’ it completely disregards the indigenous Australians who were here before us for 50,000 years.

    is a direct response to/critique of the idea that the “nation” is young because recently a bunch of white people showed up and rammed through a new constitution.

    Although I think Nielsen would agree that it’s not wrong to say that the nation is young when measuring by how recently it achieved independence from the Brits, I also think she would add that the country has a 50ky > history of independence before the colonialism-obsessed Brits showed up and interrupted that independent state for what is, proportionally, a very short time.

    Is China a “young” nation because its constitution is young compared to that of the US?

    And how old does a constitution have to be to be old? The Brits still don’t have a standardized, explicit constitution. Are they a baby-nation, because their constitution, such as it is, undergoes change and growth so much more quickly than other nations who established formal constitutions some time back? Are they not-yet-a-nation?

    Or is a nation old or young regardless of when the most recent government was constituted? If so, what are the other factors we should use to judge, and wouldn’t Australia be a very old nation by most other methods of reckoning?

    If China is a young nation, then fine. Probably Australia is too, under whatever method you’re using to achieve that “young” result for China. But if you’re of the opinion that China is an old nation, what argument are you going to make that makes Australia young?

  42. iammarauder says

    @31 Kreator:

    The fourth verse of the anthem is more explicit:

    While other nations of the globe
    Behold us from afar,
    We’ll rise to high renown and shine
    Like our glorious southern star;
    From England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle,
    Who come our lot to share,
    Let all combine with heart and hand
    To advance Australia fair!
    In joyful strains then let us sing
    “Advance Australia fair!”


    So it appears that only the English, Scots and Irish can come together to advance Australia fair. So the Aboriginal people of Australia are explicitly excluded here (as are the Welsh for some reason).

    Oh, and the other countries can just sit there and “behold” us from afar.

    Yeah, “Advance Australia Fair” is totally not racist… [/sarcasm]

  43. Rob Grigjanis says

    CD @52: Nielsen certainly got the disregard for indigenous Australians right, and I hope she understands, or comes to understand, that “disregard” doesn’t even begin to cover the physical/cultural genocide that’s been practiced from the beginning of European colonization. Not just in Oz, but Canada, the US, and many other places.

    I think it’s also important to note that the countries I mention above were never nations before Europeans came. They were many nations, mostly more distinct, culturally and linguistically, than the nations of Europe. That’s a huge part of the damage done by colonizers; drawing boundaries that ignore anything outside their own blinkered “reality”.

  44. quasar says

    I honestly can’t think of anything less Australian than throwing a fit over someone “disrespecting” our national anthem. Rack off, Pauline.

    PS: “We are Australian” (aka. the Qantas song) has always been a better anthem than “Advance Australian Fair”.

  45. chrislawson says

    I say this as someone who hates our anthem musically and thematically (with its blatant colonial bullishness), who thinks that Harper Nielsen deserves all the support we can give her and her critics in politics and the media are disgusting neo-fascist hypocrites (these are exactly the same people who want to get rid of hate speech laws because, as you know, offending others is a fundamental human right but only if you are rich and white). I would love us to change the anthem to something both lyrically appropriate and more enjoyable to sing.

    It’s also an interesting example of religious creep as some Christian schools sing an evangelised version of the anthem where the second verse starts with “With Christ our head and cornerstone,
    We’ll build our nation’s might.” The original has no mention of any religious sentiments at all. But you know, can’t run a conservative Christian school without lying to the students!

    Naturally, we shouldn’t expect the composer Peter Dodds McCormick, a Scottish-born white Australian and active member of the Highland Society, to have written an anthem in 1878 that reflects modern values. We should change the anthem. (Quick reminder: this song officially replaced God Save the Queen in 1984; for all it’s flaws at least it chucked out the aristocratic and religious obeisance of GStQ, which is exactly why Australia’s most pinko anti-racist pro-Aborigine anti-colonialist prime minister Gough Whitlam started the push for this change, with verses amended to take out the obvious imperialist lines.)

    But Jebus, the word “fair” in the anthem absolutely has nothing to do with skin colour. “Advance Australia Fair” literally means “May Australia Progress Well In The Future.” The entire song is written in gratingly faux-archaic language. There is even the ridiculous line “Our home is girt by sea” (girt being a word that means “encircled” from the same Germanic root as “girdle”) that I’ve seen parodied by someone calling their house Girt-By-Sea.

    Complaining about “fair” in this context referring to race is about as meaningful as complaining about racism when people expect a “fair trial” or a statistics text referring to a “fair coin toss”. If we’re going to apply whatever the hell interpretation of a word known to have multiple diverse meanings, we could argue that the lyricist meant Australia should be even-handed to all its inhabitants. Or that it was of middling size. Or that it would never cheat. (Clearly the words didn’t mean any of those variations, either.)

    And no, I don’t expect a 9-year old who recognises the flaws in the song to give a complex linguistic parsing. So she got one small part of her statement wrong. Not a big deal. The rest of her argument still stands. Aboriginal singer Deborah Cheetham refused to sing the anthem for the AFL grand final specifically because of the “young” line. Good on her.

    But really, seeing so many people here jump on the word “fair” as if it meant “white-skinned” in every context is about as bracing as seeing Republican responses to the word “socialism” as if it meant “brutal oppression” in every context.

  46. chrislawson says


    Those were the original 1878 lyrics for the song. When it was adopted as the official national anthem, all of those verses were removed for the very purpose of being more inclusive. They also changed “Australia’s sons” to “Australians all” and made many other edits. The changes didn’t go nearly far enough, of course: even the modern version makes no mention of any Aboriginal role in Australia’s past or future.

    There are only two verses to the national anthem, usually only the first verse is sung, and there is no such thing as “the fourth verse of the anthem”. It’s reasonable to point out the racism in the original lyrics. It’s reasonable to ask people to think about the origins of the song and to question whether making changes to increase inclusivity really does wash out all the original racism (my answer: no it doesn’t; this song should be abandoned as national anthem in any variation). But please don’t present those 1878 lyrics as being what anyone actually sings at school or public events.

  47. John Morales says

    chrislawson @56, nice. Still, for mine, granting the validity/relevance of anthems is unthinkingly buying into nationalism.

    (Is that not obvious?)

    FWIW, it’s clear to me our unofficial anthem is Waltzing Matilda (it’s duly dated, of course).

    But at least it’s cheery and not pompous, even if it contains archaic slang and is derivative.

    (Or, at least not a dirge)

    Anyway, thing is that (at least some) younger Aussies are exposed to perspective, and “get it”.


  48. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @59: We obviously have radically different notions of “cheery”. More cheery than “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, maybe…

  49. consciousness razor says

    FWIW, it’s clear to me our unofficial anthem is Waltzing Matilda (it’s duly dated, of course).

    If I had been quizzed about it, I’m sure that would’ve been my first guess. But I’m an ignorant American.

    But at least it’s cheery and not pompous, even if it contains archaic slang and is derivative.

    However, musically, it’s definitely still in the European tradition. While you’re at it, why not a fusion of that and indigenous music?

  50. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    More cheery than “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, maybe…

    I still think that would be an inspired choice. An anti-war, anti-nationalism anthem? Sign me up. (But what do I know? The US anthem is such a piece of shit. I much prefer the Spanish anthem: “Franco, Franco que tiene el culo blanco porque su mujer, lo lava con Ariel.”)

  51. John Morales says


    However, musically, it’s definitely still in the European tradition. While you’re at it, why not a fusion of that and indigenous music?

    Wouldn’t work — in indigenous culture, there’s no such thing as popular music — its purpose is not entertainment, but social and ritualistic.

    (Though, yeah, anthems are an epitome of ritualism)

    Since you’re a musicologist, you might be interested in this:

    Me, I reckon “Down Under” would make a good anthem, if anthem one must have. ;)

  52. John Morales says

    Finally, I cannot dispute all this stuff erases the actual history of Australia for the overwhelming portion of its existence. But, Humpty-Dumpty and all that.

    (cf. terra nullius)

    Or, that little girl is perfectly correct, unpalatable as it may be to some.

  53. Muz says

    We can expect a lot more of this sort of thing. Now we have an Evangelical PM straight from the pocket of the coal industry, the right wing religious remainder will be out to make ultra-nationalist hay while the sun shines.

  54. consciousness razor says

    (Though, yeah, anthems are an epitome of ritualism)

    Well, there you go. The Star Spangled Banner and God Save the Queen aren’t exactly pop entertainment either, at least not from our current perspective.

    What it mainly needs to do is get the crowd all fired up (and/or a bit weepy) for football games, parades, invading small countries … stuff like that.

    Me, I reckon “Down Under” would make a good anthem, if anthem one must have. ;)

    One must. You’ve got a nation, no? That’s just the sort of thing they do, according to tradition.

    You do indeed all come from a land down under, so your choice is at least appropriate in that respect.

  55. Porivil Sorrens says

    This is such a blatant manufactversy too, there isn’t nearly as big a culture of like “You must stand and sing the anthem or you’re literally spitting in the face of the nation” in Australia as there is in the US. It’s this weird appeal to like, Trump-style populism that has been growing in a lot of nations, even when the cultural context is radically different.

  56. garysturgess says

    Honestly if all the controversy means that we change the national anthem, I have never met any of my fellow Aussies that wouldn’t call that a win. Indeed I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that even knows all the words – I surely don’t. This isn’t even really satire:

  57. chrislawson says

    John Morales@59–
    ‘Still, for mine, granting the validity/relevance of anthems is unthinkingly buying into nationalism.”

    I would be more than happy to ditch national anthems. I have zero interest in singing them myself and I absolutely despise the way they have wormed their way into events like football finals that have absolutely nothing to do with national ceremonies.

    On the one hand, I would like to think that a generous, inclusive anthem could be a nice thing to sing as a nation, but I agree with you that it’s just catnip to nationalists and xenophobes no matter what the wording. The fact that this young girl is being publicly abused for “disrespecting the troops” shows just how deranged and dangerous are the nationalists in our midst. The anthem has nothing to do with the military. It wasn’t even our national anthem until after the Vietnam War. And of the troops who served in combat since then, I doubt a single one would say they went overseas to shoot and be shot at in East Timor, Iraqi, Afghanistan and Syria because they felt strongly about the lyrics for “Advance Australia Fair”.

  58. chrislawson says


    Minor point: The new anthem was made official in 1984. 1977 was when Whitlam started the ball rolling by surveying Australians for their preferred anthem because he really, really wanted to get rid of “God Save the Queen” (as it turns out, so did most Australians).

  59. chrislawson says


    Aboriginal music can appear in popular compositions. Yothu Yindi had a couple of hit songs using traditional instruments and rhythms mixed with Western dance music. Obviously it would be wrong to use any sacred music for popular/anthemic purposes, though.

  60. chrislawson says

    Porivil Sorrens@70–

    Yes, it’s appalling isn’t it? The right-wing media and political leaders have seized on this as their Colin Kaepernick moment, forgetting that (1) Kaepernick is 100% right both constitutionally and morally, and (2) their choice for the Australian version of this scapegoating is a 9-year old Aboriginal girl.

  61. chrislawson says

    I just realised I have no idea if Harper Nielsen is Aboriginal or not. Doesn’t affect the validity of her stance, or the cravenness of the politicians and media blowhards attacking her and her family.

  62. John Morales says


    Aboriginal music can appear in popular compositions. Yothu Yindi had a couple of hit songs using traditional instruments and rhythms mixed with Western dance music.

    Well, since the band was aboriginal I suppose it is Aboriginal music, in some facile sense.

    But no.

    As I;ve noted, Humpty Dumpty stuff. A continent’s worth of non-literate cultures was foolishly smashed up, and it ain’t ever gonna be what it was. Umpteen languages, gone forever. Umpteen cultures, too. What we now see are the barest remnants, pieced together from shards and from oldsters. It ain’t the instruments, it ain’t the rhythms. It’s the knowledge.

    (Alas. Were I an ethnologist, I could cry)

    BTW, actually, indigenous music was sexist as fuck. Men were men, women were women, and each had their business.

    And, again, I emphasise it was not for entertainment, unlike YY, and the “dancing” was not merely dancing. Much of it was encoded knowledge, for seasons, sites, and for survival.

    (cf. )

  63. says

    Party nickname is “Pauline Hanson’s One Notion” – that one notion being “whinge about the strangers”.

    My take as an Aussie? I would point to this as a giant “look, look, a rabbit” effort by Hanson and the rest of the representatives of the Australian (always) Right involved, because at present “their” government (nominally theirs, the Liberal and National parties are of the Right) is approximately about as useful and functional as a screen door on a submarine, and definitely incapable of organising a chook raffle in a country pub with the head of the local CWA giving step-by-step instructions.

    jonmelbourne @5: And vice-versa. The joys of ballad metre, in fact. What’s even more fun is if you sing alternating lines of “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island” and the Australian national anthem (to either tune) it still makes a vague sort of sense.

    “Now sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
    For we are young and free
    That started from this tropic port
    Our home is girt by sea
    The mate was a mighty sailing man
    Of beauty rich and rare
    Five passengers set sail that day
    Advance Australia Fair!”