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Australia, can we call you fair on equality?

There comes a time in (almost) every Australian migrant’s life, when he/she is faced with a conscious choice – to embrace the values, ways of living and all that embodies the true ‘Aussie’ spirit.  Yes, the opportunity and choice to truly ‘call Australia home’. 

I was fortunate enough to have made the conscious choice to take up Australian Citizenship (what seems like years ago), a milestone in my life I’m fiercely proud of and towards which I worked very hard.

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I remember my Citizenship ceremony rather vividly. Standing adjacent to my sister – our heads held high with smiles spread across our faces - we were akin to quokkas (unarguably the happiest animal on this planet and quintessentially Aussie).

"From my personal, humanitarian perspective and from supporting equality however – I think it’s an absolute no brainer.”  - Harsh Vardhan

As we broke into Advance Australia Fair for the first time since I landed on the shores of this beautiful country I realised the intensity and depth of our national anthem.

It truly meant something to me – a testament of our journey, the sweat, blood and tears, and the happiness and joy along the way.

And, as we stand at a very important juncture in Australian history, I can’t help but be drawn to our national anthem … yet again. 

Yes, marriage equality

Yes. The juncture, if you haven’t already guessed, is the debate on legalising same-sex marriage and supporting Australian marriage equality.

There has been much talk. Politically, the issue is divisive. From my personal, humanitarian perspective and from supporting equality however – I think it’s an absolute no brainer.

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

What is freedom? I believe a cursory glance at the dictionary will tell you being free is ‘to be able to act or be done as one wishes; not under the control of another’.

How are we free, I ask you, when a few of us are not allowed the basic right to spend our lives with the one we love under the recognition of the state?

Being free is when we’re not confined or imprisoned. Ask any member of our LGBTIQ community whether they have been made to feel free in their choice for love and you’ll get a unanimous and resounding answer. And yet, we are asked to rejoice … for we are young and free.

We've golden soil and wealth for toil;

Our home is girt by sea;

Peter Dodd McCormick may well have used an archaic word ‘girt’ to acknowledge the fact Australia is an island. Yet, over a century later the words still ring true.

How so you may ask? Over 20 nations have embraced and celebrated diversity over the last 16 years. 

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Yet, we, Australia, continue to isolate ourselves. Our home continues to be girted (girded) - by our narrowness in thought and lack of true inclusion.

Whatever happened to our spirit of ‘fair go’? Do we want constriction in thinking and beliefs to be what defines us? Or do we want to leave a proud legacy of being known as a land of fair dinkum hard work and opportunity? 

 

Our land abounds in nature's gifts

Of beauty rich and rare;

In history's page, let every stage

Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair.

We are about to write history – something which will be talked about and remembered by generations to come. Would we not want to lead by example?

Would we not want to tell our children, our siblings, our neighbours, the world, when we stood up for equality?

How are we going to ‘Advance Australia’ if we cannot advance our thinking, beliefs and ideologies?

C’mon Aussies! We’re better than this. We love cheering the underdog, we give everyone a ‘fair go’, we get behind our own and we always lend a helping hand to those in need.

It’s time to wake up to the nation’s call. Our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues need us. Let us Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross

We'll toil with hearts and hands;

To make this Commonwealth of ours

Renowned of all the lands;

It is time to toil yet again. And let our radiant Southern Cross be our beacon of light which will take us from the darkness (in thought and beliefs) to light (embracing diversity). We must toil with all our hearts and hands as we vote.

We remember clearly the time we fell in love with our partners and decided to spend together the rest of our lives (I still remember when I met my lovely wife and fell in love).

Why should we restrict this wonderful feeling to a certain few? What gives us this right? Well, it is time we (yes, you and I) can right this wrong. Vote. Vote with your hearts, hands, mind and soul to make Australia renowned of all the lands.

For those who've come across the seas

We've boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair.

I believe it is time to unite. To have the courage to speak out, be bold, and stand for what is right. It is time for us to combine our voices and hearts and vote.

Vote for equality, vote for humanity and vote for unity. Love unites us. It is time for us to show the world our true spirit. We have boundless plains to share and we respect all those who choose to call this country home.

For those of you who may not know, Peter Dodds McCormick penned our famous national Anthem in 1878 (under the pen-name ‘Amicus’, which means ‘friend’ in Latin).

However, Advance Australia Fair only replaced God Save the Queen as the official national anthem in 1984, following a plebiscite to choose the national song in 1977.

Yes, it took seven years from the time of the plebiscite before a conscious decision to make it our national anthem – a song we sing with such pride today.

So as you sit down with your loved ones with a pen in hand to vote, know what you do today may have a deep and far reaching impact for our tomorrow.

I implore you Australia – spare a thought for those whose future may well rest on the wielding of your pen. I know I certainly am. For I want my future generation to know I stood for what is right, for the basic human right to love and be loved.

It is time we realise diversity should be accepted. Diversity should be respected. Diversity should be celebrated. It is time Australia, to truly Advance Australia Fair.

Harsh Vardhan is Manager, Strategic Risk & Enablement (Office of Chief Risk Officer, Australia) at ANZ

ANZ continues to support marriage equality. We are encouraging our Australian employees to have their say in the survey and to do so in a thoughtful way. How they vote is a personal matter for them.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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