In a week that saw tens of thousands of Australians march in solidarity with the nation's First People, leading First Australian boxer, Anthony 'The Man' Mundine has added further fuel to the fire by promising to boycott what he calls the country's "racist" national anthem prior his much anticipated rematch with West Australian Danny Green on Friday.
"It's a racist anthem and doesn't represent our people. It's disrespectful to our people," Mundine told the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
Event organisers are now in talks with the broadcaster, Foxtel, to find a solution, one of which might see the anthem played before the fighters enter the ring. The anthem is to be sung by First Australian singer, Jessica Mauboy, but Mundine says that is just a token gesture to curry favour.
"I like Jessica but it's not for our people. They are just using her because she is black," he said.
On Australia Day last week well over 60 thousand Australians took to the streets to express their solidarity with First Nations people and demand Australia change the date of its national day of celebration. Australia Day, held annually on January 26th, celebrates the arrival of British colonial forces in Australia and the beginning of more than 100 years of Frontier and Settlement War, resulting in widespread massacring of Aboriginal and Torre Strait Island women, children, and men. The same day is known as Survival Day or Invasion Day in the Indigenous community.
Today, Indigenous Australians continue to suffer from an infant mortality rate more than twice that of non-Indigenous children; a death rate five times that of non-Indigenous Australians; and an incarceration rate among juveniles 24 times that of non-indigenous Australians. That is without mentioning the inter-generational trauma suffered during the Stolen Generation, in which Aboriginal children were stolen from their parents and placed in white Christian boarding schools (Mundine's grandparents were part of the Stolen Generation).
Just yesterday came news of a historical documentary by Australian filmmaker, Phillip Rang, revealing how Indigenous Australians were stolen from their families and forced to tour the world as part of a "human zoo."
Anthony Mundine has long been one of the leading voices of dissent when it comes to Australia's treatment of its Indigenous people. A First Australian himself, Mundine was Born and raised in the heady inner-city of Sydney during the 1980s, where he grew up amidst the racial violence, police persecution and political activism that defined the era and the area. If you were black and living in the Redfern you were locked up on sight if you were caught on the streets after ten pm.
Mundine would became one of the greatest sportsmen this country, and indeed the world has ever seen (described by the BBC's Steve Bunce as "arguably the greatest cross-over athlete of all time"), rising to the top of not one but two of the world's toughest sports - Rugby League and Boxing. He has used his profile tirelessly and fearlessly throughout his career to raise awareness about the plight of his people and to call for justice and recognition.
"First and foremost I want to focus on the fight," Mundine told the Telegraph. "I'm not trying to divide people or be controversial but you've asked the question and I'm answering it honestly to tell people where I stand. We're not young and free," he says.
Several white Australian journalists and commentators have slammed Mundine in response. Speaking on Channel 7's breakfast television program, Sunrise, social commentator Prue MacSween claimed the government "threw billions at the aboriginal industry."
"He says that they are not free and that there is no opportunity for aboriginal people. We throw billions of dollars at the aboriginal industry. If the money is not filtering through, I think you need to take the argument up with the indigenous administrations that are not funnelling that money through," she said.
"When you compare (Mundine) with the graciousness and dignity of Roger Federer, and his performance last night, you think, 'Anthony, you have so much to learn'. A lot of people will hope that Anthony cannot stand after the fight."
Mundine's rematch with Green comes ten years after the first. Fight fans will remember he was just as outspoken back then.
"I thought, man, this is our chance to shine. I'm not fighting for me. I'm fighting for my fans, I'm fighting for my people, I'm fighting for the minority, I'm fighting the system, I'm fighting against injustice, this is the night all eyes are gonna be glued to that TV and I was born to entertain," he said after Mundine vs Green I.