Indigenous minister's surprise take on NRL national anthem debate

Chris Young
Sports Reporter

The federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt, has weighed in on the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council’s proposal to forgo the national anthem at this year’s Indigenous All-Stars Game, saying it is not something he supports.

The Indigenous Council raised the idea of not playing Advance Australia Fair at the annual showcase on Wednesday, with Gold Coast Titans star Ryan James backing the proposal.

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While the final decision rests with the Australian Rugby Commission, Mr Wyatt told The Australian’s Paige Taylor and Brent Read the anthem should be played.

“Nothing does more to unite Australians than our love of sports,” Mr Wyatt said.

“The NRL All Stars game is a showcase of the incredible contribution indigenous Australians make to the game and it gives hope to the next generation of league greats.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt says the national anthem must be played at the NRL Indigenous All-Stars game. Pictures: Getty Images

“I do not support calls not to play the Australian national anthem.

“Any such move would be divisive and would detract from the significance and importance of celebrating Indigenous Australians’ place in the world of rugby league.”

‘They know where we stand’: James

James said the ALRC knew where Indigenous players stood when it came to the national anthem, after several players refused to sing it during the State of Origin series earlier in the year.

The Titans star, who is recovering from an ACL injury, said Indigenous players have various reasons for not wanting to hear the anthem at the annual All-Star game.

"You've only got to look back to when my mum was born," he said.

"She was born indigenous to this land and she wasn't even born recognised as a person.

"That's not that long ago, mum was born in 1960.

"We've definitely come a long way since then but some of those words just don't connect to us as people and we don't stand for it."