OUTSPOKEN Indigenous advocate Joe Williams has again sparked a media firestorm by calling for Aboriginal NRL players to kneel while the national anthem is played.
It comes mere months after Mr Williams refused to stand for “Advance Australia Fair” at a Wagga council Australia Day ceremony where he was recognised for his work in suicide prevention.
The boxing champion and former Rabbitohs player told The Daily Advertiser he was called to arms by recent protests in the United States. Several African-American NFL players had knelt during their anthem before games to protest police treatment.
Mr Williams also previously staged a “silent protest” while he was a Rabbitohs player.
In 2007, he chose to stand apart from his teammates while the anthem was played.
The lyrics of “Advance Australia Fair” were racist and did not reflect the plight of Indigenous Australians, Mr Willaims said.
“Have a look at the opening words, ‘Australians let us rejoice, for we are young and free’,” Mr Williams said.
“Our people make up three quarters of the jail system, we are not young – colonisation is young, 228 years – and the land that we are sitting on is over 60,000 years old.”
The former NRL player challenged anyone who thought his stance was offensive to consider the indignity Indigenous people felt about the Australian flag.
“Think of how disrespectful it is to our people seeing that flag waved in front of our face everyday with the union jack on it,” Mr Williams said.
“We consider that a reminder of the slaughter of our people.”
Wiradjuri elder and stolen generation survivor Aunty Isobel Reid said while she supported Mr Williams’ right to protest, she did not agree with his proposal for players to kneel during the national anthem.
“It’s not right; he shouldn’t do that,” she said.
“But everyone has the right to have their own say, he might think differently.
“I always stand for the national anthem and I’ll be happy to stand.”
Mr Williams said internet abuse condemning his proposal had already begun, but he refused to back down.
“There’s people spraying me left, right and centre online,” he said.
“All I am trying to do is fight for equality because there’s not [any], and if you can’t see that then walk a day in our shoes.”