Australia changed one 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 national anthem, Australia’s Advance Gallery, has been changed from “Because We Are Young And Free” to “Because We Are One And Free.”
The change took effect on Friday.
“The time has come to ensure that this great unity is fully reflected in our national anthem,” Morrison said, adding that Australia was “the most successful multicultural country on Earth.”
Morrison said: “While Australia as a modern country may be relatively young, the story of our country is old, as are the stories of many First Nations peoples whose leadership we recognize and truly respect.”
“In the spirit of unity, it is right that we ensure that our national anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation.”
Australian Indigenous Minister Ken White said in a statement that he was asked about the change and offered his support.
White, the first Aboriginal Australian to be elected to the House of Representatives of the Federal Parliament, said the one-word change was “small in nature but significant in purpose.”
“It is an acknowledgment that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures go back 65,000 years,” he said.
The change comes less than two months after New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Prejiklian voiced her support for Indigenous Australians, who said the national anthem does not reflect them nor their history.
University of New South Wales law professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman from Parungam in southwestern Queensland, criticized the failure to consult with indigenous people about the change.
“This is a disappointing way to end 2020 and start 2021. It’s all about us, without us,” she wrote on social media.
Last month, the Wallabies’ Australian national rugby team became the first sports team to sing the national anthem in the indigenous language before their match against Argentina.
It was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick’s Advanced Gallery of Australia and premiered in 1878. It was adopted as the national anthem in 1984.