Dinky- di it’s time to waltz

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - OPINION -

After 42 years, it’s time for another ref­er­en­dum on the na­tional an­them and this time Aussies will get fair dinkum and over­whelm­ingly opt for Waltz­ing Matilda. In 1977, Aus­tralians were asked to vote on a na­tional an­them. The con­tenders were God Save The Queen, Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair, Waltz­ing Matilda and Song Of Aus­tralia.

Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair polled 43 per cent of the vote, Waltz­ing Matilda was sec­ond with 28 per cent, God Save The Queen (18 per cent) got bronze and Song Of Aus­tralia was stone moth­er­less. Just over seven mil­lion bal­lots were is­sued and of these, 773,000 were in­for­mal, mean­ing just over six mil­lion Aus­tralians de­cided our na­tional an­them. In 1977, only the good folk of the ACT — which last week made cannabis le­gal — gave the nod to Waltz­ing Matilda over Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair. The rest of the coun­try — ex­cept, South Aus­tralia, which went over­whelm­ingly for Song of Aus­tralia — voted for Ad­vanced Aus­tralia Fair. But things have changed. While I have noth­ing against Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair, it should be dis­qual­i­fied straight up for us­ing the word “girt’’ in its lyrics. Girt by sea? Please.

And how many Aussies know the en­tire song off by heart? You do re­alise the bloke who penned Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair — Peter Dodds McCormick — was a Scots­man?

On the other hand, Waltz­ing Matilda evokes the true spirit of Aus­tralia.

In 1952, the Helsinki Olympics mob ac­ci­den­tally played Waltz­ing Matilda after Mar­jorie Jack­son won gold in the 100m sprint. The Lith­gow Flash thought it was fan­tas­tic. Did you know that a ren­di­tion of Waltz­ing Matilda by Slim Dusty was the first song broad­cast by astronauts to Earth? That alone gives it na­tional an­them sta­tus. Banjo was born in Orange and penned Waltz­ing Matilda at the Combo Wa­ter­hole in Out­back Queens­land. He’s also on the $10 note and has been on a postage stamp. McCormick wouldn’t get a guernsey on a 5c coin. There will be some who ar­gue we shouldn’t glo­rify lyrics about a sheep thief. But hey, we’re a na­tion of con­victs.

In World War I, Aussie sol­diers sang Waltz­ing Matilda as they strode into bat­tle. In the vil­lage of Villers-Bre­ton­neux in France, Waltz­ing Matilda is still sung by French chil­dren in hon­our of Aus­tralian sol­diers who de­fended the coun­try against Ger­man in­va­sion.

In Malaya in 1942, Aussie sol­diers were said to be united in voice singing Waltz­ing Matilda as they ad­vanced on the Ja­panese. Ditto Viet­nam and our brave men of to­day. If it’s good enough for our sol­diers, it should be good enough for the rest of us.

The next time you’re at a bar­bie, grab a coldie, hook into a snag, get rid of any galahs and ask your mates to vote for Waltz­ing Matilda. Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair? Sounds like a bloody po­lit­i­cal party.

GLEE­SON PETER

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