CANBERRA, Australia – Australia changed a word in its national anthem to reflect what the Prime Minister called “the spirit of unity” and the country’s indigenous people.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on New Year’s Eve that the second line of the anthem, Advance Australia Fair, had been changed from “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free”.
The change took effect on Friday.
“It is time to make sure that this great unity is better reflected in our national anthem,” he said, adding that Australia is “the most successful multicultural nation on earth”.
“While Australia may be relatively young as a modern nation, our country’s history is ancient, as is the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose responsibilities we rightly recognize and respect,” said Morrison.
“In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we ensure that our national anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation.”
Australian Indigenous Minister Ken Wyatt said in a statement he was asked about the change and supported it.
Wyatt, the first Indigenous Australian to be elected to the lower house of the federal parliament, said the one-word change was “small but significant”.
“It is a confirmation that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are 65,000 years old,” he said.
The change comes less than two months after New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian expressed support for indigenous Australians who said the national anthem did not reflect them or their history.
University of New South Wales law professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barrungam Nation in southwestern Queensland, criticized the indigenous peoples’ lack of consultation about the change.
“This is a disappointing way to end 2020 and start 2021. All about us without us,” she wrote on social media.
Last month, Australia’s national rugby team, Wallabies, became the first sports team to sing the anthem in an indigenous language before their game against Argentina.
The Advance Australia Fair was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and premiered in 1878. It was adopted as the national anthem in 1984.
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