An Open Letter to Lee Kernaghan, Australian of the Year.

Written by

Andrew Millar


October 13, 2008

Dear Mr Kernaghan,

Sir, the purpose of my letter is, to put it bluntly, to start a movement to revoke the honour bestowed on you by the Australian of the Year Committee in 2008. To whit, the honour of joining the ranks of such notable Australians as Cathy Freeman, Fred Hollows, Paul Hogan and Sir Robert Helpmann as Australian of the Year.

The event that brought me to undertaking this task occurred on Sunday, 12 October at 9am, Central Australian Summer Time. And I stress the word Australian on purpose because I wish to point out to you that when you were singing the national anthem during the official ceremonies of the Bathurst 1000, you were doing so in Australia, not Wyoming, or Arizona or deep in the heart of Texas.

If you were well aware that the town of Bathurst is in New South Wales, which in turn is in Australia, then why did you sing our national anthem with a thick American accent?

I can’t believe that you would think Australia is the 53rd State (though some Americans do).

When Australian of the Year 1987, John Farnham sung, he did so with an Australian accent!

When Australian of the Year 1999, Mark Taylor stood in a line at the beginning of a cricket match and mouthed the words of the national anthem as all sporting people do, he did so with an Australian accent. Even though he was probably standing on English soil.

Dawn Fraser (AOY 1964) stole flags with an Australian accent.

And Lionel Rose (Class of 1968) beat the living daylights out of his opponents with an Australian accent.

Even Sir Jack Brabham mumbles with an Australian accent.

So, why do you feel the need to add long vowel sounds and a drawling twang to your music? The Seekers (AOY 1967) never did!

Lee, the line “Our home is girt by sea’ is silly enough without you singing ‘Our home is gerd ba sea’!

We have a great bush heritage. It is unique. Find it in your voice again. Go and read Lawson and C.J Dennis and the ‘Banjo’. Hire a Chips Rafferty film or two. ‘The Overlanders’ or ‘The Sundowners’ or ‘Smiley’ are great places to start.

Or watch ‘They’re a Weird Mob’ or talk to Paul Hogan!

Do anything you can to find your Australian lyric again.

A good place to start would be with your wardrobe. At Bathurst, you look like you had been dressed from a Johnny Cash Garage Sale. If nothing else loose the J.R. Ewing Stetson. It is about as Australian as a prairie.

Yes I admit Lee, you are copping a backlash from the fact that I got my superannuation account reconciliation from the last 12 months on Friday to see my retirement savings have gone backwards to fund some Yank’s ‘ninjna’ home loan (no income, no job, no assets but we’ll give you money anyway). And I am pissed off. An American once said to me after 9/11 that Americans needed to understand there is a price to pay for their constant greed and ignorance. Why must that be my superannuation?

Lee, sing like an Aussie again. You’ve done much to raise the spirits of everyone in Australia through your music. You’ve given our farmers a voice in Canberra. You question the role of ‘heart’ in a government decision making process that at times seems ruled by ‘head’.

You’re a great Aussie.

All I ask is that you sing like one.