One word has been changed in Australia’s national anthem to reflect what the prime minister calls “the spirit of unity”.
Scott Morrison late on New Year’s Eve announced the second line of Advance Australia Fair has been changed from “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free”.
The change takes effect from Friday.
“During the past year we have showed once again the indomitable spirit of Australians and the united effort that has always enabled us to prevail as a nation,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.
“It is time to ensure this great unity is reflected more fully in our national anthem.”
The prime minister added that Australia was the “most successful multicultural nation on earth”.
“While Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, our country’s story is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose stewardship we rightly acknowledge and respect,” Mr Morrison said.
“In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we ensure our National Anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation.”
However, UNSW law professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barrungam nation in southwest Queensland, bemoaned the lack of consultation with Indigenous people.
“Were our mobs consulted? If so, who was consulted?” Prof Davis posted on social media.
“This is a disappointing way to end 2020 and start 2021. Everything about us, without us.”
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said in a New Year’s Day statement that he had been asked about the potential lyric change and had given it his support.
Mr Wyatt, who was the first Indigenous Australian elected to the federal parliament’s lower house, said the one-word change was “small in nature but significant in purpose”.
“It is an acknowledgement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures date back 65,000 years,” he said.
“It is an acknowledgement that people who have come across the seas, be it 250 years ago or families that have joined us over the years, are as much of this nation and our story as any other Australian.
“Our future – our potential and our success – lies in us being one – one with ourselves and one with our history – the good and the bad.”
The lyric change comes less than two months after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian expressed empathy for Indigenous Australians who said the national anthem did not reflect them and their history.
It was time to make “a small gesture” and change some lyrics, she said.
The change also follows the Wallabies becoming the first sporting team to sing the anthem in an Indigenous language before their rugby Test against Argentina earlier in December.
Olivia Fox’s stirring rendition in Eora language at Sydney’s Bankwest Stadium, backed by all 23 Wallabies, captured hearts across the nation.
Advance Australia Fair was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and first performed in 1878.
It was adopted as the national anthem in 1984 on a recommendation by then prime minister Bob Hawke.