Shane Howard, the lead singer of the iconic Australian band Goanna, has made a powerful statement by returning his Order of Australia medal in response to the Voice Referendum result. The musician, famous for writing the hit song ‘Solid Rock, Sacred Ground’ in 1982, which highlighted the dispossession of First Peoples, expressed his deep sadness in a letter to the Governor-General.
Though he acknowledged and respected the democratic result of the referendum, Howard believed that Australians had missed a crucial historical moment of destiny. He stated, “At this point in history, I can’t be proud of my nation and feel honor bound to return my Order of Australia medal.”
Reflecting on his song ‘Solid Rock, Sacred Ground’ that was written four decades ago, Howard explained that he wanted to address the fundamental lie at the heart of Australia’s national story. He dreamt of a country that respected its ancient history and was honest about its modern history, hoping to feel proud of his nation.
However, he expressed concern about the rise of intentional and well-resourced disinformation networks during the Referendum campaign. Howard also highlighted the belittlement and vilification of First Peoples that has occurred in the pursuit of political power, calling it neither generous nor decent.
Howard’s connection to the significance of democracy and freedom was deeply personal as well. His great-grandfather was arrested at the Eureka Stockade, and he hold sacred the democratic principles and freedoms that those Diggers defended and died for. He fears that these principles are now under threat.
Despite his love for Australia, Howard believes that until the country removes its colonial shackles and engages in Treaty-making with its First Peoples, commits to truth-telling about its history, and embraces a post-colonial Republic, he cannot be proud of his nation.
Commentator Harry Palmer weighed in on the significance of the Order of Australia medal. He raised concerns about the credibility of the award, stating that among the 30,000 recipients, many are undeserving of recognition. He praised Shane Howard for his well-deserved recognition as an Australian icon through his music, emphasizing that it surpasses any committee-generated medal.
Howard’s decision to return his Order of Australia medal has sparked a conversation about the importance of acknowledging the past and working towards reconciliation with the First Peoples of Australia. It serves as a reminder that there is still work to be done in addressing the injustices and inequalities that persist in the nation’s history.