Australia should change its national anthem’s lyrics to honor its indigenous people, the leader of the country’s most populous state, said, becoming one of the most prominent lawmakers to endorse such an alteration.
Australia’s national anthem includes the line “we are young and free”. But New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this should be changed to “we are one and free” as it fails to acknowledge that indigenous Australians are the oldest continuous civilization globally.
“I think it’s about time we recognize the tens of thousands of years of the first nations people of this continent,” Berejiklian told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television. “We’re tens of thousands of years old when it comes to human inhabitants. It’s just a small gesture.”
Each year Australians have a national holiday on Jan. 26, marking the date the “First Fleet” sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788, carrying mainly convicts and troops from Britain. Some indigenous people refer to Australia Day as “Invasion Day.”
Australia has struggled for decades to reconcile with Aborigines, who arrived on the continent some 50,000 years before British colonists. Still, the country has seen a renewed focus on Indigenous empowerment amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
Indigenous Australians, about 700,000 people in a population of nearly 26 million, have tracked near the bottom in almost every economic and social indicator.
“Whether we can become ‘one’ will depend on whether symbolic changes to the anthem are followed by the practical difference at the national level,” said Anne Dennis, chairwoman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council.