‘We are one and free’: Australia changes national anthem | Indigenous rights news

The first change since 1984 follows criticism that the anthem does not recognize the long history of the Indigenous community.

Australia changed a line of its national anthem in an amendment intended to better recognize and honor the long history of the country’s indigenous peoples.

The change from “for we are young and free” to “for we are one and free” came into effect on Friday and is the first amendment to the anthem, Advance Australia Fair, since 1984.

“While Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, our country’s history is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples, whose stewardship we rightly recognize and respect,” said writes Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the Melbourne-based Age newspaper. on New Year’s Eve.

“Changing ‘young and free’ to ‘one and free’ doesn’t take anything away, but I think it adds a lot.”

The anthem was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and first performed in 1878. It was adopted as the country’s national anthem in 1984 to replace the colonial-era God Save the Queen.

Australia has struggled for decades to come to terms with its indigenous peoples, who lived on the continent for tens of thousands of years before the arrival of British settlers.

Each year the country celebrates Australia Day on January 26, when the “First Fleet” sailed Sydney Harbor in 1788, carrying mostly convicts and British troops. Some indigenous people call it ‘Invasion day“.

The idea of ​​changing the wording was started in 2020 by the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, who felt the previous sentence ignored Australia’s “proud First Nations culture”. The change came into effect after consultations with state prime ministers, state governors and other senior officials. It was not clear if this had been discussed with the indigenous peoples themselves.

“In terms of culture, society and people, we go back 60,000 years,” First Nations Foundation President Ian Hamm told Australian public broadcaster ABC. “We are certainly not young. “One and Free” seeks what brings us together. It’s actually a focal point for this discussion of who we are as a country. I think this is a very good change.

Others said Australia needs to move beyond symbolism and embark on substantial and lasting reform.

‘National shame’

Indigenous Australians have long suffered from discrimination and inequality and lag behind non-Indigenous Australians in key health indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy, as well as in areas such as literacy and education.

Protests took place in 2020 against the continued lack of action on the deaths of Indigenous Australians in custody [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]

In February last year, the Prime Minister told Parliament that only two of the seven key goals – part of a pledge to improve the lives of the country’s indigenous peoples – were on track in what he said. described as a “national shame“.

Indigenous Australians are also more likely to die in custody or at the hands of police, with around one death recorded each month since a landmark royal commission on the matter in 1991.

Earlier this year, as the Black Lives Matter movement spread beyond the United States, protests were held in several cities across the country to demand an end to deaths in custody.

No prosecution has been initiated despite dozens of investigations, inquiries and, in some cases, video evidence of abuse.

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