Jacey Fortin, New York Times, December 31, 2020
The lyrics of Australia’s national anthem have been altered by one word to recognize the country’s Indigenous history, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Thursday.
Until Friday, the song began: “Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free.” But as the country celebrated the beginning of the new year, the “young” was dropped. The anthem now describes the country as “one and free.”
The move was supported across the political spectrum. The opposition leader Anthony Albanese, of the Labor Party, said the country “should be proud of the fact that we have the oldest continuous civilization on the planet right here with First Nations people,” according to the BBC.
The anthem, “Advance Australia Fair,” was written by Peter Dodds McCormick in 1878. It became the national anthem in 1984, replacing “God Save the Queen,” and the first line was changed to make it more inclusive of women — “Australia’s sons” became “Australians all.”
Critics of the “young and free” lyric said it suggested that the history of Australia began relatively recently, perhaps with the federation of Australia on Jan. 1, 1901, or the raising of a British flag at Sydney Cove on Jan. 26, 1788. That event is officially commemorated as a holiday, Australia Day, but some Indigenous activists refer to it as “Invasion Day” in recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been living on the continent for more than 60,000 years.
And in recent years, a number of Indigenous Australian professional athletes have refused to sing, or stand for, the anthem before games or matches, including the boxer Anthony Mundine and the rugby players Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr.