‘It’s beautiful’: Indigenous national anthem wins over ex-RFS commissioner

NSW Australian of the Year Shane Fitzsimmons has put forward the radical idea of a new Indigenous version of the national anthem to be learnt and sung by all.

The idea came in his Australia Day address at the Conservatorium of Music on Monday as he prepared the state for commemoration on January 26 of "a very different Australia Day".

Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons speaks during an Australia Day address at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Monday.Credit:Getty

The former commissioner for the NSW Rural Fire Service said at the event attended by the Governor of NSW Margaret Beazley and Premier Gladys Berejiklian, that he had in recent months heard the national anthem sung in a local Aboriginal language "and it's beautiful".

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were possible to have a nationally agreed Indigenous version and that we could all learn in a united voice and sing together as one, both First Nations language and our English Australian," he said.

Mr Fitzsimmons, the NSW Commissioner for Resilience, spoke to the recent lessons of drought, bushfires and flood as the state continues to confront COVID-19.

He spoke of the need to work together to rebuild optimism and build resilience.

Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Monday.Credit:Getty

"So how do we cope in such difficult and uncertain times? Whether it's at an individual level, family level, businesses, industries or the broader community? To me its resilience. Resilience which is at the heart of the Australian spirit. You get knocked down, you get back up again. You get bucked off the horse, you dust yourself, you sit right back in the saddle and continue on.

"In my new role I've often asked what is and how do we build resilience? To me resilience is built on our life experiences, whether they be personal, family, workplace, friends or community, the stresses, the disruptions, the trauma, emergencies, disasters."

On a more personal note he told of the thousands of moving messages he had received from children across Australia impacted by last summer's bushfires when he was the RFS commissioner.

"There's something very pure, there's something very innocent, there's something very heartfelt, but there's something very confronting when you read children's notes," he said.

Of his own family, he said: "Don't take tomorrow for granted. And I've said very publicly I'm indebted, indeed I'm blessed to have Lisa, my wife, and my daughters Sarah and Lauren. All our family, our friends, our colleagues, the love and support, the guidance and advice, there is no doubt I wouldn't be here today without it.

"It will certainly be a different Australia Day this year particularly with the ongoing implications and challenges associated with COVID and for all those continuing with their recovery journey.

"However, we do have much to celebrate this Australia Day and we must celebrate."

Andrew Parker chair of the Australia Day Council of NSW said the January 26 program had been reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions but many traditions would be retained. The day begins with the WugulOra morning ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve followed by a 10km wheelchair race in The Rocks with athletes preparing for the Paralympics planned for later this year. There will be citizenship ceremonies and the evening concert and special tributes to frontline workers on the sails of the Opera House. Much of the ceremony will be online or on television.

"I encourage you take the opportunity to reflect, respect and celebrate the opportunities presented to us in this quite extraordinary year," Mr Parker said.

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