Australia’s national anthem is ‘just not that good’, Briggs tells Q&A

The Australian public is not attached to the national anthem because it is only 35 years old and the “song’s just not that good”, the Indigenous rapper Briggs has said.

Appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday, Briggs was asked about his video for The Weekly in which he said the anthem “sucks”, and sought to explain what it “sounds like when blackfellas listen to it”.

The video sparked a critical front-page news story in the West Australian.

On Monday night Briggs dismissed the backlash, saying he tried to push himself out of his comfort zone because “change doesn’t come from being comfortable”.

“I always get the kickback,” he said. “That’s just part of, that’s just showbiz, baby.”

The Victorian musician said he wanted to provide a “scoreboard” to Australia that showed the disadvantages faced by First Nations people.

The video was prompted by the news a group of Indigenous rugby league players would not sing the anthem at last week’s State of Origin match.

The rapper – whose best-known songs includes January 26, which advocates changing the date of Australia Day – told the Q&A audience most young Australians were taught to sing the anthem at school and didn’t “ask questions … because everyone else is [singing it]”.

“So I don’t think a lot of people are that attached to the actual anthem. It’s only 35 years old. I don’t think anyone is really that attached to it because the song’s just not that good,” he said to applause.

In a special episode to mark Sydney’s Vivid festival, he was joined on the panel by the actor and writer Faustina Agolley, the billionaire founder of Atlassian Mike Cannon-Brookes, the CSIRO chief executive, Larry Marshall, and the cyberpsychologist Jocelyn Brewer.

Cannon-Brookes said he had changed his mind about the anthem after watching Briggs’s video.

“He’s totally right,” he said. “This made a lot of sense. It changed the way I thought about the anthem. It is what great art should do, it made you think about it and it changed my opinion. Can we change everybody in the country? I think we’ve got a chance.”

Briggs has not stood for the anthem since he was 13 or 14 years old.

“It’s about acknowledgment for Indigenous people,” he said. “And our place in Australia as the first people of Australia, being here for 60,000-plus years.”

Asked which lyrics he did not agree with, he singled out “the idea that Australia is young and free … when Indigenous people are some of the most incarcerated people on the face of the earth”. Critics say the use of the word “young” disregards the fact that Indigenous Australians are one of the oldest cultures in the world.

The anthem also includes the line “wealth for toil”, which riled Briggs because “only one in 10 Indigenous Australians are financially secure”.

Advance Australia Fair was written in 1878 by ‎Peter Dodds McCormick but was not adopted as the national anthem until 1984, replacing God Save the Queen.

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