Australia has amended its national anthem to remove reference to the country being “young and free” amid calls to recognise that its Indigenous people are the oldest continued civilization in the world.
The change to “for we are one and free” took effect on Friday.
Governor-General David Hurley agreed to the Commonwealth’s recommendation to make an amendment to the anthem for the first time since 1984.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement that the change was being made for all Australians.
“We live in a timeless land of ancient First Nations peoples, and we draw together the stories of more than 300 national ancestries and language groups,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“And our anthem should reflect that. The changes we have made and we have announced today, I think, achieve that goal.”
Australia has struggled for decades to reconcile with Aborigines, who arrived on the continent some 50,000 years before British colonists.
Each year Australians have a national holiday on Jan. 26, marking the date the “First Fleet” sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788, carrying mainly convicts and troops from Britain. Some indigenous people refer to Australia Day as “Invasion Day”.
There is now a renewed focus on Indigenous empowerment amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Advance Australia Fair” was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and first performed in 1878.
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.
Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke last recommended a modification of the national anthem to the Governor-General in 1984.
The historic change to “Advance Australia Fair” has involved consultations with state premiers, state governors who have been advised by the Governor-General, as well as the Speaker of Federal Parliament and the President of the Senate.