Why a combined anthem?

Perhaps it is in the words of Joe Geia’s bicentennial lament ‘Yil Lull’ (1988) that we can find the quintessential mix of grief and hope, acknowledgement of the past and optimism for the future, that has characterised Indigenous popular music in recent decades; ‘I sing for the red and the blood that was shed… and I’m singing for the gold and the new year, young and old… now I’m singing just for you…’  

— Sian Prior Music in Melbourne – Celebration and Survival [11.02.2011]

Firstly let us start by saying that this is in no way a negative reflection on the writer or the government for our current national anthem “Advance Australia Fair”.

It is important for both flags to have a song, so that respectful recognition is given to the First Peoples of this country. I am proposing that the second verse of Advance Australia Fair and Yil Lull are combined. The second verse of AAF is about “welcoming” people from across the seas.

I am often called on to perform Yil Lull , and it is very often introduced as the “anthem”. Yil Lull’s journey has taken it nationally and internationally, — with many Indigenous and Non-Indigenous singers performing it at significant events, as well as choirs throughout the world.

Yil Lull means “to sing” from the same language (Kuku Yelangi) as the word Kangaroo and didjeridoo. The Aboriginal flag is like an umbrella that all clans respect and is a unifying symbol for all our nations.

The song is descriptive of the flag and sings “of a new year for young and old”.

I’m not asking for Advance Australia Fair to be replaced but to be played WITH it just as our flags fly together, so should our anthem — just as South Africa and New Zealand have led the way in recognizing their Indigenous communities through song — South Africa combining their anthems (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nkosi_Sikelel’_iAfrika) and New Zealand singing in Maori and English (http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/video/new-zealands-national-anthems).

“When words fail, music speaks”.

By combining the two songs a strong message goes out — that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have much to share with our multicultural society. By honoring both flags within our national anthem, acknowledgement is given that we are respected in our country as the first people, with a culture that spans more than 40,000 years. Music is a universal language and can heal the misinformation, educate and eradicate prejudices that exist.

Our national anthem should reflect our present situation in this great land. The current Anthem states that we are “young and free”. But we are not young. We are at least 40,000 years old. Our country did not start when white people arrived. We need to acknowledge that in our flag and our song so that all Australians can embrace knowledge and understanding of each other.

On a lighter note surely at any large event people singing Yil lull ley, Yil lull –ley, Yil Lull-ley would feed much more pride than Aussie, Aussie, Aussie oi oi oi

Anthem combined performed in Ballarat

The project was kicked off in Ballarat when I was living there in 2013. In collaboration with Stella Savvy, the director of the Sweet Mona Choir, the arrangement was taught to the students at St Alipius Primary School with enthusiastic support from the principal. It was launched at the school in December 2013 to great acclaim by the invited parents and special guests from the local Indigenous community (many shed tears and found it quite stirring). The students now sing this version every week at assembly.


I travelled to Palm Island where my family is from, and taught anthem combined to PI students. My friend, then Professsor of Music at QUT, Phil Graham, recorded it. The kids sang with gusto!


I was invited to Junction Park Primary School in Brisbane where the children have been performing the Anthem Combined for over four years after hearing me interviewed on ABC Brisbane. It was so wonderful to hear 500 children sing Anthem Combined. Many other teachers have contacted me to ask if they too can teach the anthem. Change and understanding will come through these children.


Junction Park Primary has recorded their version of Anthem Combined with the parents and students also providing the accompanying instruments.

Our political and social history tells us that change can come about by popular demand.

We’d like to present the alternate version of the anthem to as many Australians as possible. And if there are enough people who acknowledge the need for change and appreciate the song, perhaps we could implement the long-overdue change.

NB: The audio version here was produced at Big Note Productions at Burleigh Heads Qld. My good friends Jennifer Matthews and Paul (Smudge) Harris recorded and produced my version without cost in strong support for the change.

Joe Geia ©