Thursday, November 21, 2013

Advance Australia Where?

While singing our national anthem at a recent commemorative event, I was deeply grieved by another reminder of the incongruence between the words we sing and the behaviour we display as a nation towards asylum seekers and refugees:

Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free;

It is ironic that a country settled on the backs of convict labour by people transported to this land on boats can be so judgmental of people who seek the same freedom that we rejoice.  It is hypocritical for us to label new boat arrivals exercising their rights as global citizens as illegal when the first boat arrivals who were granted citizenship in this country were convicted criminals.  And there is a disturbing consistency in how we as a nation treated the aborigines when we forced our way in, robbing them of their freedom, compared to how we now treat the asylum seekers whom we are forcing out, denying them of their freedom!

We've golden soil and wealth for toil; our home is girt by sea; our land abounds in nature's gifts; of beauty rich and rare;

The richness and beauty of this land is a gift that comes from the Creator God to be enjoyed by all His creation.  Our abundance is not a blessing to be selfishly hoarded when many in the two thirds world are subjected to extreme poverty and injustice.  Whose land is it?  It is God's land!  The waters surrounding His land do not absolve us from our humanitarian responsibility to be generous stewards of what has been entrusted to us.

In history's page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair.

History will judge this nation by the values we advance to the most vulnerable people in our world!  Our perception of what is fair and just in our society ought to be proportional to the prosperity and peace we experience as the 7th most prosperous country in the world.  This would certainly change the conversation about fair treatment of asylum seekers.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross we'll toil with hearts and hands; to make this Commonwealth of ours renowned of all the lands;

The reputation of Australia is being seriously damaged by our current policies on asylum seekers which are denying basic human rights to some of the most vulnerable people on earth.  Denying people "the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution" despite their passage, "the right to work" and "the right to freedom of movement and residence" is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Our Commonwealth is becoming renowned for all the wrong reasons.

For those who've come across the seas we've boundless plains to share;

One doesn't have to travel too far beyond our shores to right size the perception that we are being overrun by refugees.  The vastness of our country and our comparative population density to the rest of the world debunks this myth.  It is obscene that Australia is pursuing offshore processing of asylum seekers and resettlement of refugees in neighbouring countries that have way less to share than the boundless plains of Australia.

With courage let us all combine to Advance Australia Fair.

We need courageous leaders to put aside party politics and fight for a fair and just Australia.
We need courageous citizens to change the conversation to soften the hearts of Australians.
We need courageous churches to stand in the gap between the two and reestablish kingdom values to really Advance Australia Fair!

If we are not willing to change the conversation about asylum seekers in this country, maybe we need to change our national anthem, which confronts every Australian with a significant gap between our stated values and actual values.  Advance Australia where?  We have certainly wandered far from being "Fair"!

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