Australia has changed one word in its national anthem to better reflect the Aboriginal history of the nation.
The second line of the anthem has been changed from “We are young and free” to “We are one and free” to recognize the centuries that Aboriginal people lived on the land before Australia existed as a country.
“Our anthem is about us, who we are, and who we hope to be as well,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in announcing the change. “We are a strong and vibrant liberal democracy. We live in a timeless land of ancient First Nations peoples, and we draw together the stories of more than 300 national ancestries and language groups.”
Morrison said the anthem should reflect the history of the land.
“The changes we have made and we have announced today, I think, achieve that goal,” he said. “It simply reflects the realities of how we understand our country and who we will always hope to be and the values that we will always live by.”
There have been several protests about the lyrics in recent years, including protests by athletes at national rugby games in support of Indigenous teammates and opponents.
“It’s a change for all Australians, and I’ve already been encouraged by the strong response from Australians right across the country,” Morrison said. “Indigenous, non-Indigenous, people of all different backgrounds, people of all different political views, and I think that very much sits in the mainstream of where Australia would like us to go. I think it’s a great way to start the New Year.”
The change takes effect immediately and was signed off on by Governor-General David Hurley.
The anthem, officially known as “Advance Australia Fair,” was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and first performed in 1878.
“In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we ensure our National Anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation,” Morrison said. “Changing ‘young and free’ to ‘one and free’ takes nothing away, but I believe it adds much.”