I am Australian

by Ian McKenzie 5 months ago in humanity

Alternative National Anthem for Australia

I am Australian
Group of young Australians at Toohey Forest in Brisbane

My Favourite Song

Choosing the song about which I am most passionate is not a problem. Without any doubt, it is “I am Australian”. The song was written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of the Seekers and by Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers. The lyrics were set to music by Bruce Woodley.

But, more about “I am Australian” a little later.

My Second Most Favourite Song

Choosing my second most favourite song would be an extremely difficult task for me. I have tried doing so, but each time I think I have come up with an answer, I think of another song which would take its place.

My taste in music is eclectic. It is indeed very much driven by my mood. And, those moods can change very quickly. I love classical music, and I also love Rock ‘n Roll, and just about everything in between. What I do know for certain is that life could be very empty without any music.

Contenders

Sitting and thinking about some of my favourite songs and artists, these are some of the thoughts I had.

William Barton

An Australian Aboriginal composer and musician, William Barton plays the oldest woodwind instrument that is used in orchestras. It is thought that the didgeridoo has been played by the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory of Australia for in excess of 40,000 years. Barton and his didgeridoos have found their way into orchestras in recent years especially with the help of Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe.

Traditionally the didgeridoo has been played on its own, or perhaps with beating sticks to give the rhythm. Sculthorpe, who is now deceased, skilfully combined aspects of native Australian Aboriginal music, with the heritage of the west.

Here is a video of Australia’s best known didgeridoo player, William Barton, teaming up with the Australian Youth Orchestra, playing a Sculthorpe composition.

Dr Gurrumul Yunupingu

Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal music artist is, without a doubt, Dr Gurrumul Yunupingu. From the remote community of Galwin’ku on Elcho Island, which is about 500 kms east of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, Yunupingu played; drums, keyboard, guitar and didgeridoo. However, what he is best known for is his incredible unique voice. I have not heard any other artist who sounds even close to the voice of this singer.

Gurrumul, as he was, and still is, generally affectionately known, was totally blind. He died way too young at the age of only forty-six. His album simply called “Gurrumul”, hit triple platinum in Australia.

Here is a video of Gurrumul Yunupingu singing in his native Aboriginal language.

Classical Music

This year, 2020, is Beethoven’s 250th birthday. Ludwig van Beethoven is considered one of the greatest composers of all time. He was prolific in his compositions, churning out great symphonies, especially his fifth and ninth, and simple melodies such as Fur Elise, which most of us learnt when learning to play the piano.

Apart from Beethoven and his contemporaries, there are many great modern composers, working not just in the traditional classical genre, but also writing music for movies and even computer games.

John Williams is possibly the greatest film composer of all time. He has won numerous awards and is known for some of the most recognisable and popular film tunes. Ennio Morricone is also well known for his film music. We immediately think of Morricone when we hear the theme from, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, and Morricone is best known for his Westerns and Crime epics. But, my favourite from Ennio Morricone is the “Love Theme” from the film “Cinema Paradiso”. And, my favourite version of that tune is the clean, clear sound of the tune played by a solo violinist, not an orchestra.

Rock ‘n Roll

As a Baby Boomer born in the late 40’s, I grew up with Rock ‘n Roll, and I still love it. In fact I still try to go dancing most weeks, and the dancing I do is Rock ‘n Roll. At a dance, I really would not want to hear any other music but Rock ‘n Roll.

Am I fickle?

No! I do not think that I am. I mentioned earlier that my preference in music is very much mood driven. Ask me tomorrow what my favourite music genres, and/or tunes, are; and I will very likely come up with a different list to what I give you today. Some music takes me longer to appreciate than other music. But, it is a curious thing that the more often I hear music from a particular genre, or even a particular tune, the more I am likely to like it.

I am Australian

In my opening paragraph I mentioned that “I am Australian” is my favourite song.

Music is capable of bringing out all sorts of emotional responses in us. In me anyway, it has endorphin type qualities. Who needs to use illicit drugs when we have music?

I can not recall when I first heard “I am Australian”, but I do remember it was broadcast during the National Day of Mourning for the victims of the February 7, 2009 Victorian bushfires. Since then we have had even more horrific and devastating bushfires in Australia during 2019 and 2020.

Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), is the national broadcaster in Australia, and the song is often played by them. It has almost become their theme song. The videos generally show a diverse range of the Australian population singing the song. Both genders, all ages, Caucasians, Aboriginals and Asians are all included.

Here are the words of the song.

I Am Australian

I came from the Dreamtime

From the dusty red soil plains

I am the ancient heart

The keeper of the flame

I stood upon the rocky shore

I watched the tall ships come

For forty thousand years I've been the first Australian

I came upon the prison ship

Bound down by iron chains

I fought the land

Endured the lash

And waited for the rains

I'm a settler

I'm a farmer's wife

On a dry and barren run

A convict then a free man

I became Australian

I'm a daughter of a digger

Who sought the mother load

The girl became a woman

On the long and dusty road

I'm a child of the Depression

I saw the good times come

I'm a bushy, I'm a battler

I am Australian

We are one

But we are many

And from all the lands on earth we come

We'll share a dream

And sing with one voice

I am, you are, we are Australian

I'm a teller of stories

I'm a singer of songs

I am Albert Namatjira

And I paint the ghostly gums

I'm Clancy on his horse

I'm Ned Kelly on the run

I'm the one who waltzed Matilda

I am Australian

I'm the hot wind from the desert

I'm the black soil of the plain

I'm the mountains and the valleys

I'm the drought and flooding rains

I am the rock

I am the sky

The rivers when they run

The spirit of this great land

I am Australian

We are one

But we are many

And from all the lands on earth we come

We'll share a dream

And sing with one voice

I am, you are, we are Australian

We are one

But we are many

And from all the lands on earth we come

We'll share a dream

And sing with one voice

I am, you are

We are Australian

I am, you are

We are Australian

Alternative National Anthem for Australia

The sub-heading of this article is, “Alternative National Anthem for Australia”.

"I am Australian" should be, and I am not the only one who thinks that. In 2011, Jeff Kennett, the Victorian Premier, tried to get the anthem changed from, “Advance Australia Fair” to “I am Australian”.

On the 7 December, 2017, the Australian House of Representatives voted on and passed legislation making it legal for same sex marriages in Australia. Immediately following the announcement of the new law, spectators seated in the public gallery rose to their feet; cheering, clapping and spontaneously singing part of, “I am Australian”.

What is it about, “I am Australian” that so many Australians, including me, love?

The lyrics are filled with many historic and cultural references concerning Australia. Let’s look at some of these verse by verse.

Verse 1

"I came from the Dreamtime

From the dusty red soil plains

I am the ancient heart

The keeper of the flame

I stood upon the rocky shore

I watched the tall ships come

For forty thousand years I've been the first Australian"

The first verse is referring to the First Nations People of Australia, the Australian Aboriginal. We know that the Aboriginals have lived here for at least forty thousand years. Recent DNA evidence from archaeological sites indicates that this could be as long as seventy thousand years, or even longer. Having been genetically isolated for that length of time makes them the oldest living civilisation in the world.

The Dreamtime is the foundation of Aboriginal religion, spirituality and culture. Land and people were added by the spirits in the beginning of time. With a continuum of ancient past to the present to the future, the Dreamtime is a period of that continuum. The Aboriginal Dreamtime will include stories about how everything in their environment and their lives are tied together.

Australia is an ancient continent, much of which is desert. The interior is often referred to as the “red centre”.

It must have been quite a shock to the Aboriginals seeing the first fleet, “tall ships”, arriving in the 1770’s.

Verse 2

"I came upon the prison ship

Bound down by iron chains

I fought the land

Endured the lash

And waited for the rains

I'm a settler

I'm a farmer's wife

On a dry and barren run

A convict then a free man

I became Australian"

Most of the early Europeans arriving in Australia were convicts who were treated very harshly by their guards. Many who survived later became free settlers. Other free settlers also came to Australia along with the convicts. Settlers were given grants of land by the government.

Extremes of climate have always been a problem for farmers in Australia. Droughts are a common concern, so farmers will need to wait “for the rains”.

Verse 3

"I'm a daughter of a digger

Who sought the mother load

The girl became a woman

On the long and dusty road

I'm a child of the Depression

I saw the good times come

I'm a bushy, I'm a battler

I am Australian"

“Digger” is a slang term used to refer to soldiers in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It came into popular use during and after World War 1, and possibly refers to the soldiers digging trenches at Anzac Cove during the Gallipoli Campaign.

Seeking the “mother load” is referring to childbirth. During the early days of European settlement in Australia, it was treated with ignorance and dread.

“Bushy” is a still commonly used slang term in Australia and generally refers to anyone who does not come from the city. Any Aussie who works hard for seemingly little reward is referred to as a “battler”.

Chorus

"We are one

But we are many

And from all the lands on earth we come

We'll share a dream

And sing with one voice

I am, you are, we are Australian"

Verse 4

"I'm a teller of stories

I'm a singer of songs

I am Albert Namatjira

And I paint the ghostly gums

I'm Clancy on his horse

I'm Ned Kelly on the run

I'm the one who waltzed Matilda

I am Australian"

Albert Namatjira was a well-known Australian Aboriginal landscape artist who painted many scenes of outback Australia, among these being Ghost Gums; which are eucalypts with smooth white bark, giving them a ghostly appearance.

“Clancy” is a reference to “Clancy of the Overflow”, a poem by famous Australian poet, Banjo Patterson. Published in 1889, it is one of Patterson’s best known works. And, as with many other of his poems, it offers a romantic view of rural life in Australia.

Just as Banjo Patterson is famous, Ned Kelly is infamous. Ned Kelly was head of the Kelly gang, a team of bushrangers. Kelly died in 1880 and is best known for wearing a suit of bullet proof armour in his final shoot-out with police. An interesting bit of trivia is that the first full length feature film made in the world was a film made in Australia on the Kelly gang.

“Waltzing Matilda” is Australia’s best known bush ballad. The words of the song were written by Banjo Patterson.

Verse 5

"I'm the hot wind from the desert

I'm the black soil of the plain

I'm the mountains and the valleys

I'm the drought and flooding rains

I am the rock

I am the sky

The rivers when they run

The spirit of this great land

I am Australian"

This final verse refers to the harshness and diversity of the Australian landscape and environment. We do have droughts followed by flooding rains in Australia. In fact currently, February 2020, we are having floods following a drought during which properties have had very little, or no rain, for several years. These floods have followed horrific fires that have devastated the country.

Final Chorus

"We are one

But we are many

And from all the lands on earth we come

We'll share a dream

And sing with one voice

I am, you are

We are Australian"

I have already mentioned the chorus. It is in fact repeated three times throughout the song. And, the final two lines are repeated again at the end

Apart from the Australian historic and cultural references in the verses, I think it is the repeated sentiments expressed in the chorus that really confirms my love of this song. And, perhaps pride in being an Aussie, and a love of my country, is also part of the reason I am so passionate about "I am Australian".

I can not recall any movies at which I have cried, but this song sang by a diverse group of Australians, smiling and looking happy, has on more than one occasion, brought tears to my eyes.

humanity
Ian McKenzie
Ian McKenzie
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Ian McKenzie

Lover of life and all it has to offer. Retired from full-time employment, but keeping busy with things I am passionate about including: family, friends, photography, writing, sustainability and keeping Australian native stingless bees.

See all posts by Ian McKenzie