Is the Australian anthem offensive?
Retired dual international Wendell Sailor says he will continue to support the Australian anthem, despite the growing outcry against some of the words – which some find offensive to indigenous people.
The former Kangaroos and Wallabies star is a proud indigenous man.
Although he admits he has never been offended by the Australian anthem, he says he can understand why others are.
For the Indigenous All Stars game in February next year, players have supported scrapping the national anthem before the match due to offensive lyrics that label Australia as “young and free”.
It follows silent protests from some of the NRL’s biggest stars including Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Cody Walker during the anthem earlier this year.
Speaking from the annual Jack Newton Charity Classic in the Hunter Valley last week, Sailor said the empowerment of indigenous athletes in the NRL has grown significantly since he retired a decade ago.
“You can see the maturity in these players being good role models not just for our code but for our people,” he told AAP.
“That makes me proud because I know we’re in good hands when that’s happening.
“No doubt there’s been more of a focus on indigenous culture for some of these players.
“The last 10 years for me, watching the boys go back and play in the Koori Knockout, boys like Andrew Fifita, I can understand what that means to them.”
Sailor’s final NRL game was the 2010 Indigenous All Stars match, which he describes as one of the proudest moments of his 18-year career at the top of both rugby league and rugby union.
While he said he has always been proud to sing the anthem, he said it’s important to empower indigenous players to use their voices.
“I can understand players not wanting to sing the national anthem and it’s a tough one, because I’m a proud indigenous man but I’m a proud Australian,” he said.
“If I played for the Wallabies or the Kangaroos or even the Indigenous All Stars, I’ve sung the anthem.
“I’ve never had a problem doing that because I love the country that we live in and I think we’re very lucky.
“Some of the words, given the history of Australia, I can understand how some indigenous people can be offended.
“My uncle was Eddie Mabo, don’t forget. He fought for those rights.
“I look at it two ways. I know that was the past and we have to look to the present and the future, but I feel very proud to live in Australia and call this country my home.”
After a successful Rugby League career – in which Sailor won Premierships with the Brisbane Broncos in 1993, 1997, 1998 and 2000, as well as playing for the Kangaroos 16 times – he moved to the Queensland Reds in Rugby Union in 2001.
He joined the Waratahs after the 2005 Super 12 season.
He made his debut for the Wallabies in 2003 and won 37 caps, including at the 2003 World Cup, where Australia lost in the Final.
In 2006 he failed a drugs test and received a two-year suspension from all forms of rugby.
His contract with the ARU was terminated, ending his Rugby Union career.
He returned to Rugby League in May 2008 with NRL club the St George Illawarra Dragons after his ban expired, playing for two seasons (the second of which was under his old Brisbane coach, Wayne Bennett), before retiring.