Gladys Berejiklian supports push to change national anthem to acknowledge Indigenous Australia

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called for a national conversation about changing the anthem to better reflect 60,000 years of Indigenous history on this continent.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has expressed her support for a revision to the first line of the anthem. Source: AAP

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has joined calls to change the lyrics of the national anthem from "we are young and free" to "one and free" to reflect Indigenous Australians as the longest living culture in the world.

The comments were made on the morning of the second State of Origin match, a week after a number of players refused to sing the anthem during the first game, and during NAIDOC week, which celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievements and culture. 

Speaking to ABC News on Wednesday, Ms Berejiklian said "it's about time" to recognise the 60,000 years of Indigenous history on this continent. 

"I feel for Indigenous Australians who don't feel the national anthem reflects them and their history," she said.

"And I think if we say, 'We're one and free', it acknowledges that we're not really young as a continent. We're tens of thousands of years old when it comes to human inhabitants."

Ms Berejiklian said it would not be the first time the anthem had been changed. The first line of the anthem, for example, has been changed from "Australia's sons let us rejoice" to the current lyrics, "Australians all let us rejoice".

She's also not the first Liberal politician to support a push for the lyrics to be changed. In 2019, conservative MP Craig Kelly suggested the "young and free" line should be changed to "strong and free"

"We have the longest living culture on our continent through the Indigenous Australians, our First Nations people," Ms Berejiklian said, but acknowledged that the "small gesture" would not go far enough for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

"And I think it's about time that we start recognising that in all of our national symbols and all of our national ways in which we represent ourselves."

The federal government on Tuesday voted down a motion, led by Indigenous senators, to fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the Senate chamber.

Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, a Yanyuwa woman, urged the government to support the flag motion.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are also national flags,” she said.

“I appeal to the Senate, when we fly the flags out the front as we do this week, we have it on display for the whole of the country, in NAIDOC week, [for] an opportunity to show that we can unite our country.”

Join SBS and NITV for a full slate of NAIDOC Week content. For more information about NAIDOC Week or this year’s theme, head to the official NAIDOC Week website.

Published 11 November 2020 at 8:12am
By Maani Truu