Written by Sara Gupta, a grade 7 student.
What’s the change?
On December 1st, 2020, Scott Morrison, Australia’s Prime Minister, declared that the second line of the national anthem, Advance Australia’s Fair ‘For we are young and free’ was amended to ‘For we are one and free’.
Why was the change made? And Why was it called young in the first place?
This amendment took place to recognize Australia’s aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders – that is the indigenous people who set foot in Australia in 40,000 BC.
The backstory has its roots in racism.
The thing is that Australia is not really a young country. The aboriginals had been living there for thousands of years before the British arrived and took over. They came from Asia and were the first ones to have found Australia. When the British invaded Australia in the late 1700s, there were between 300 and 700 thousand aboriginals and Torres strait islanders living in Australia.
Yet, the national anthem called it “young”, which many saw as wrong because it obliterated 65,000 years of Australian history. It basically meant that Australia became a country when the British arrived in the 1700s.
In fact, every year on the 26th of January, which is celebrated as Australia Day, this debate becomes louder – since this day in 1788 was when a British governor, named Arthur Phillip raised the British flag in Sydney (a harbour city in Australia).
This change is significant because, even if it’s the first step, it recognizes that Australia’s history did not begin with the arrival of the British.
How has this change helped Australia?
It is a step towards making the aboriginals feel more included and recognized. They can now feel like they are a part of Australia, not just forgotten in history.
Of course, only changing a line is not going to be enough. While this is a great step towards unity, a lot more action should be undertaken to capitalise on the start of creating this inclusion.
Has any country done this before?
In 2016, Canada amended its national anthem, O Canada to make it gender-neutral. After around 40 years of protest, the words ‘in all thy sons command’ was amended to ‘in all of us command. Even before Australia’s recent amendment, the country had changed its national anthem to promote gender equality.
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