Marketers need to listen to the silence at State of Origin

This week, multiple State of Origin players chose to remain silent during the national anthem, in solidarity with Indigenous Australians. 3PM's Marnie Vinall argues that, within that silence, there's a lot for marketers to listen to.

This week, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous players refused to sing the Australian anthem at the State of Origin series opener in Brisbane, protesting its lack of Indigenous acknowledgment.

NSW Blues player Cody Walker, from Gove in the Northern Territory, was the first to boycott the anthem, saying it “did not represent him or his family”. Soon after, other players, including Josh Addo-Carr and Will Chambers joined him in saying they wouldn’t sing either. On the night, other players stood with their teammates and didn’t open their mouths when the song played.

Players during last night’s national anthem

These players taking a stand to say, ‘Hey, your anthem doesn’t include my experience’ is something we should be paying attention to, especially as Aussies working in marketing. If this is true for rugby league players and their families, surely it’s true for some of our colleagues, clients, the greater community, and our audience.

As marketers and agencies, it’s in our best interests to be paying attention to all Australian voices, especially those outside of our immediate bubble or those who don’t align with our own privileges.

We need to listen when our audience speaks

Despite the fact that our job is to communicate a message to the masses, we also need to listen when people communicate back to us.

It’s one thing to be proud of the diversity of your team but another entirely to actively commit to creating a business environment that promotes equality, listens to marginalised voices, and changes conventional behaviour. If we act inclusive, our messaging will be too.

Just because it’s not us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter

Most of us grew up knowing and singing Advance Australia Fair’s lyrics, never questioning its sentiment or phrases. I know I am guilty of this; the words aligned with my lived experience in the country. But as we’re being shown, this is not the case for all Australians.

In line with the players’ protest, rapper Briggs, during a segment on The Weekly, gave commentary on the lyrics, “For we are young and free”, saying: “Now, since all children in Northern Territory detention are Aboriginal and we are the most incarcerated people on Earth, we don’t feel particularly free. And as for young, we’ve been here for 80,000 years but I guess we don’t look a day over 60,000.”

As agencies and Australian businesses that are proud to put the word ‘progressive’ in our bios, isn’t it our responsibility to listen to marginalised voices and honour all Australians, not just the ones with the loudest and most-privileged voices?

The State of Origin players told us something important in their silence last night. We need to listen.

Marnie Vinall is a publicist and copywriter at 3PM


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