Australian national anthem changed to honor Indigenous people | News | DW | 01.01.2021
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Australian national anthem changed to honor Indigenous people

The country's national song has been changed by one word to better represent its pre-colonial history, a step welcomed by some and scorned by others.

Sea of Hands art installation in Australia showing the Aboriginal red, black and yellow flag

The change to lyrics aimed to better reflect Australia's pre-colonial history

A single word in the Australian national anthem changed on Friday as part of an attempt by the government to be more inclusive of the country's Indigenous population.

On New Year's Eve, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the second line of the song "Advance Australia Fair" will be changed from "For we are young and free" to "For we are one and free."

"It is time to ensure this great unity is reflected more fully in our national anthem," Morrison said, adding the claim that Australia was "the most successful multicultural nation on Earth."

Morrison hammered home the new line in a tweet that also wished his country a "Happy New Year."

60,000 years of history

Explaining the reasoning behind the change, the prime minister said in a statement: "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."

"In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we ensure our National Anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation," he added.

The new lyrics came into effect on Friday, less than two months after the state premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, expressed her empathy with Indigenous Australians who had said that the anthem did not reflect the 60,000-year history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Support and criticism

Ken Wyatt, the minister for Indigenous Australians and the first Indigenous Australian elected to the parliament's lower house called the change "small in nature but significant in purpose."

However, University of New South Wales law professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barrungam nation in southwest Queensland state was critical of the lack of consultation with Indigenous people over the change.

"This is a disappointing way to end 2020 and start 2021. Everything about us, without us,'' she wrote on social media.

The song was first adopted as the country's national anthem in 1984.

ab/mm (AP, dpa)