01 January, 2021

Be the anthem

Australia has updated the lyrics of its national anthem to say “we are one and free,” instead of “we are young and free.” This is intended to reflect the fact Australia has always been home to the world’s oldest continuous culture rather than just being the “young” nation the song was originally intended to represent.

Many have criticised the change as a token one-word acknowledgement of Australia’s Indigenous people, and it undoubtedly is. Some have also suggested the anthem should be changed to better reflect Australia. While happy to check my white privilege, I respectfully suggest we go the other way. Wouldn’t it be nice if Australia reflected the anthem?

Any nation’s anthem is a brochure, a slogan, a postcard. If any country’s anthem were honest it would say, “Look, we’ve done some really bad shit but we’re trying to be better about it.” At best.

Anyone who has ever had a dog will be aware of the old saying, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” How about Australia be the country our anthem says we are?

If we HAD wealth for toil, if we SHARED our boundless plains with those who’ve come across the sea, if we CARED for nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare, if we WERE one (but many) and free… I’d like that.

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