Australia has made a small but significant tweak to its national anthem.
According to CNN, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that the country's national anthem, "Advance Australia Fair," has been changed slightly in order to be more inclusive of Australia's Indigenous communities.
The song's first line which goes, "Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free," has been changed to, "Australians all let us rejoice, for we are one and free." This small change acknowledges the country's ancient past, before colonization by the British in 1788.
"In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we also now acknowledge this and ensure our national anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation. Changing 'young and free' to 'one and free' takes nothing away, but I believe it adds much," Morrison wrote in an op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald." Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, but our country's story is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose stewardship we rightly acknowledge and respect."
The song has been the subject of controversy for several years now, so much so that a non-profit called Representation In Anthem has been campaigning for more inclusive lyrics since 2016, CNN reported. Peter Vickery, founder of Representation In Anthem has been working with leaders in Australia's government and in local Indigenous communities to find a solution for the song's phrasing.
"Frankly, I'm elated," Vickery said to CNN. "It does achieve a major objective of our work, which was to convert words of hurt or exclusion to words of inclusion, and embrace a multicultural society of the 21st century."
Still, some people feel that the change is not significant enough, according to CNN, with former boxing champion and rugby player Anthony Mundine (an Aboriginal Australian) saying the old song should be "scrapped" altogether and replaced by a new one.
However, Ian Hamm, chair of the Indigenous organization First Nations Foundation, told CNN that the change was "a good step, but after all, it's just one step, one thing," adding, "the anthem in itself is just that — it's a song. There's a whole bunch of other initiatives and changes and efforts to be done to create equity of opportunity for Aboriginal people, and equity in life outcomes for Aboriginal peoples."
Australia's 500 Indigenous tribes are all different from each other, but community leaders across the country are still working for awareness, inclusivity, and equality. For instance, leaders for the Anangu tribe officially reclaimed the area around Uluru (formerly Ayer's Rock) back in 1985 and banned the practice of climbing the rock in an effort to preserve the area.
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