Only hours before the clock ticked over into 2021, the Prime Minister of Australia announced a single word would be changed in the national anthem; from we are “young and free”, to we are “one and free.” A gesture, he says, that “takes nothing away, but adds so much” to our nation’s story, “for all Australians”.
At sunrise on January 1, 2021, my first Facetime chat was to my 9-year-old niece who was fortunate to be bringing in the new year in the embrace of her kinship circle, as the unpredictable COVID-19 situation unfolds in Sydney. She is a proud little Wiradjuri and Wailwan warrior, the 2020 winner of the Larissa Behrendt Literacy Award at her school, and a young Koori kid who has the blood of a fierce black matriarchal lineage pumping through her veins.
I told her of the Prime Minister’s announcement overnight, the change of one word in the national anthem as an attempt to recognise our ancient First Nations’ storylines, her instinctive response was, “It doesn’t matter, I don’t sing it and I still won’t stand!”
This is a kid who, like many others adapting to every COVID-19 challenge, shows up on the frontline of protests to resist every Australia Day proudly hitting the pavement wearing her red, black and yellow and yelling at the top of her lungs #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe and #BlackLivesMatter. On January 26, 2020, her little brother asked, “sissy, what are we marching for?” Her words: “We are marching for our land back!”