Like the generations before us, we found that same indomitable Australian spirit. We found the grit, the ingenuity and the forbearance. But most of all, in a period of unprecedented isolation, we found each other.
Sure, we aren’t perfect. But as a smart nation, we acknowledge and learn from our mistakes. We are always prepared to have a go. We try to ensure that our disagreements don’t hold us back. And we always strive to do better and be better.
As Prime Minister, I have always had three goals to guide me: to keep Australia strong, to keep Australians safe and to keep Australians together.
Of these, keeping Australians together underpins everything else. At no time in my lifetime have I seen this more on display than in the past year. I know this will continue to be the source of our success as we overcome the many challenges still ahead.
As a people we have always been more interested in actions than words. We care more about getting things done.
Over the past year, Australians have demonstrated through our actions that we are indeed “one and free”, as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has suggested.
So I believe the time has now come for us to proclaim in our national anthem what we have lived as a nation, especially during this past year.
As one country, we draw together the heritage of more than 300 national ancestries and languages, to chart our own unique Australian journey. We are the most successful multicultural and immigration nation on earth. Our national unity is a modern wonder.
Indeed it was our Federation father Sir Henry Parkes whose vision for a united Australia understood this when he said: “What we are doing by this great Federal movement is not for us, but for them, for the untold millions that will follow us; until this land of Australia shall gather within its bosom all the fruits of the culture of the world; and until the flag of freedom shall be planted here so firmly and guarded with such a fervent patriotism, that all the powers on earth shall never assault it.”
This unity draws strength today from many sources. From the unique connection Indigenous Australians have to this land. From the enlightened liberal democratic nation that was established 120 years ago today. And from the waves of migration that have shaped the Australian story since that time.
Peter Dodds McCormick first wrote the words “young and free” almost a century before theybecame part of our national anthem. At that time,the words undoubtedly captured the energetic spirit of liberty that drove Australia towards nationhood.
However, since then we have also come to appreciate the timeless spirit of the ancient land we call home, and the connection to this place of Indigenous peoples who have cared for our country for thousands of years.
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.
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.
It recognises the distance we have travelled as a nation. It reaffirms our resolve as a liberal democratic people and as one of the world’s oldest democracies. It honours the foundations upon which our nation has been built and the aspirations we share for the future.
So in recognition of the extraordinary united effort of Australians over the past year, the time is now right to make the change.
It is not the first time we have made these types of changes. It has been more than 35 years since Prime Minister Bob Hawke made the last change in 1984, and I have followed the same process.
This change is for all Australians.
We are one country and have proven so from generation to generation.
During a time when communities around the world are splintering and identity politics concentrates on our differences, this change affirms our shared national story and shared destiny.
Our Australian identity is of one people, made from many.
We are a common-wealth with a common future.
“One and free” is and must be the story of every Australian. It’s the way we truly Advance Australia Fair.
Happy New Year, Australia.
Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia.
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