Asia Minute: An Inclusive Change for Australia’s National Anthem

Jan 1, 2021

On this New Year's Day, there is a small but significant change for citizens of Australia. It's an adjustment to the national anthem — in support of the country's indigenous people.

“Advance Australia Fair” was composed nearly 150 years ago, and it’s been the country’s national anthem since 1984 — when it replaced “God Save the Queen,” another piece of its colonial history.

The second line of the song in the older version refers to Australia itself when it says “For we are young and free.” 

That fits if you date the country from when Captain James Cook landed there in 1770. But as with Cook’s travels to Hawaii, despite the use of the word “discovery,” there were of course native people already there.

For tens of thousands of years in Australia, according to estimates of archeologists.

So the new version of the anthem changes “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free.”

The leader of the state of New South Wales suggested the change earlier this year, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it reflects Australia’s multiculturalism and “recognizes that our national story is drawn from more than 300 national ancestries and language groups.”

Morrison made the announcement yesterday — effective today.

And while it surprised many, the move is getting support across political lines, with the head of the main opposition party saying Australia “should be proud of the fact that we have the oldest continuous civilization on the planet right here with First Nations people.”