NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is backing the campaign to change the opening lines of Advance Australian Fair.
“I think it’s about time we recognise the tens of thousands of years of the First Nations people of this continent,” she told ABC TV on Wednesday.
“Unity is so important.”
Ms Berejiklian, who has called for a national conversation about changing the anthem to better reflect 60,000 years of Indigenous history on this continent, supports the moves to change the opening line from “we are young and free” to “we are one and free”.
“I love our national anthem. I get goose bumps every time I hear it sung or played, but I think one word change will make such a difference,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“As a very young school child I remember learning ‘Australia’s sons let us rejoice’. Today we sing ‘Australians all let us rejoice’.
“Similarly I believe singing we are ‘one’ and free rather than ‘young’ and free will acknowledge our proud Indigenous history.”
She says she feels for Indigenous Australians who say the national anthem doesn’t reflect them and their history and it’s time to make “a small gesture” and change some lyrics.
“Recognising all of our key parts of our society is critical … 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.
“Respect is important. Inclusiveness is important.”
The change would reflect that Australia has the longest-living culture on our continent through the Indigenous Australians.
“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,” she said.
Indigenous advocate and TV personality Brooke Boney, said she was “sick of the discussions” and that the current lyrics didn’t pay enough tribute to Indigenous Australians.
Boney, a Gamilaroi woman, told told Nine’s Today show that “people throw their toys out of the cot … we can’t have a mature and sensible reaction to our future as a nation”.
“We’re not young and free when the government refuses to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.
“We are not young and free when every kid in a Northern Territory juvenile facility is black.
“It doesn’t pay tribute to the fact that this is the home – all of us are a part of this incredible legacy of the oldest continuous culture of anywhere in the world. If we can’t recognise it in our anthem, then where can we recognise that?”
The discussion comes on the morning of the second State of Origin match, a week after a number of players refused to sing the anthem before the first game, and during NAIDOC Week, which celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievements and culture.
A motion to fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the Senate chamber was voted down by the federal government.
Northern Territory Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy welcomed Ms Berejiklian’s stance, saying it was the beginning of an important discussion.
“It is about change and it is about an opportunity for our country to recreate and walk together as First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians,” she told Nine’s Today program.
But Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said the proposed change “unfairly seeks to tarnish our ancestors”.
“Our country and our nation is not just about the people who live today. It is also recognising that we benefit from the sacrifices and efforts of others in the past. Now, I don’t think the writers of this anthem when they say ‘young’ are intending any kind of offence here.
“We are a young nation. We have old civilisations and we have a rich history over tens of thousands of years. But we are a young country,” he told Nine.