Representational Image
Representational Image

The lyrics of Australia's national anthem have been changed by one word for the first time since 1984 to reflect the "the spirit of unity" and country's long Indigenous history and communities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.

Making the announcement on the New Year's eve, Morrison said that the second line of the anthem has been changed from "For we are young and free" to "For we are one and free".

Governor-General David Hurley has agreed to the Commonwealth's recommendation to make an amendment to the anthem.

Prime Minister Morrison said in a statement that the change was being made for all Australians.

"During the past year, we have showed once again the indomitable spirit of Australians and the united effort that has always enabled us to prevail as a nation," he said.

"It is time to ensure this great unity is reflected more fully in our national anthem.

"Also, while Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, our country's story is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose stewardship we rightly acknowledge and respect." People inhabited Australia for tens of thousands of years before it was colonised by mostly white English settlers in the 18th Century.

"In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we 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 said.

The historic change to Advance Australia Fair, which was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and first performed in 1878, has been done after consultations with state premiers and state governors.

It was adopted as the country's national anthem on April 19, 1984, replacing God Save the Queen, which had been in place since the time of British settlement.

In recent years Australia has made greater efforts to recognise Indigenous history in cultural and political events.

Peter Vickery, the founder and chair of the non-profit Representation In Anthem, has been campaigning for a more inclusive anthem since 2016.

"Many of our indigenous people found it difficult, if not impossible, to sing the exclusionary words of 'Advance Australia Fair'," Vickery said on Friday. "We simply can't have an anthem which causes hurt to its own people." Vickery worked with other Indigenous leaders and singers to create alternate, more inclusive lyrics -- one change being the phrase "one and free" that Prime Minister Morrison adopted.

"Frankly, I'm elated," Vickery said. "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."

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