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John Williamson Reflects on True Blue Four Decades On

17 April 2023 | 10:49 pm | Stephen Green

In this week's episode of Q&A, country icon John Willamson responded to a questioner asking whether the Australia he wrote about over 40 years ago in 'True Blue' is the same today.

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Few songs stir the soul of Australians like John Williamson's seminal hit True Blue. It has been used at sporting matches, at national events and is one of the most loved Australian country songs of all time, and Williamson has explained more about what the song means in 2023. 

This week on the ABC's Q&A, Williamson was a guest and addressed the song's legacy, explaining that it continues to describe the Australian experience and was never intended to be for one particular cultural group, saying the song was "patriotic, not nationalistic". A questioner asked whether with the state of Australia today, did he think the song still holds the test of time and if it were written today, would its message be the same. 

"I went on Ahn Do's show when he painted my portrait on the ABC and he asked me a similar question. I said to him straight away, mate, I think you're true blue and he went a bit weak in the knees, but I meant it. To me, being True Blue has always meant loving this country, being good people, being fair dinkum. There's no race attached to it at all, even though some white supremacists tried to use my song at one stage which I was very angry about. They thought that True Blue meant white only or something. I went on stage for years with an Elder from Hermannsburg, Aranda country, Warren H. Williams and he sang True Blue with me every night. He knew what it meant... it's just being true people."

Williamson pondered on whether the Australia today is the one reflected in the song, admitting that trust between people may have waned in more recent decades, but that the song largely still reflects an Australian aspiration. 

"Is it still there, that true blue attitude? Perhaps we have lost it a bit. Perhaps we're a bit like the old countries now where you don't trust people as much as you used to, I don't know. But the song also mentions cockatoos and the nature of the country as well and caring for that and sticking up for your mates, well that's what we do normally. It's about all the good things. That's what I think it means anyway."

Williamson used the discussion around True Blue to also lend his support to The Voice and the upcoming referrendum. He rejected the premise that True Blue fueled nationalism, instead focising on patriotism and coming together. 

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"It's patriotic, but it's not nationalistic. I'm not a nationalistic sort of person. I think it's about being proud of ourselves and [The Voice] is about that as well. I think it's all about being proud of who we are as a nation."