SYDNEY – Australia changed its national anthem to remove the reference that the country is “young and free” to recognize that its indigenous peoples are the oldest continuing civilization in the world.
The change to “for we are one and free” took effect on Friday.
“We live in a timeless land of the ancient First Nations peoples and we are bringing together the stories of more than 300 national ancestors and language groups,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“And our anthem should reflect that. The changes that we made and announced today, I believe, achieve that goal.”
Australia struggled for decades to reconcile itself with the Aborigines who came to the continent about 50,000 years before the British colonists.
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Every year Australians have a national holiday on January 26th, on which the “First Fleet” entered Sydney Harbor in 1788 and carried mainly convicts and troops from Great Britain. Some indigenous people refer to Australia Day as “Invasion Day”.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, there is now a renewed focus on strengthening the indigenous population.
The idea of changing the wording was put into practice in 2020 by Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister of New South Wales. He said the current wording ignored Australia’s “proud First Nations culture”.
The proposal has been welcomed by several lawmakers, including Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and right-wing One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson.
When asked if he would like to be the first to sing the new national anthem, Morisson said, “I think prime ministers singing is the same as prime ministers public exercises – it’s best done privately.”