OPINION

Change one word or select a new Australian anthem?

Change one word or just change the national anthem?

WHAT a curious thing it is that for the second year in the row we have a discussion over Australia's national anthem being played out before a background of the State of Origin rugby league series.

Last year it was a stance taken by the game's indigenous players to refuse to sing the anthem that made headlines; this year it has been Premier Gladys Berejiklian's call to have a single word in the anthem replaced that has ruffled some feathers.

In both instances, though, it has been the anthem's failure to acknowledge Australia's indigenous past that has sparked the conversation. And, in both instances, those calling for change deserve the support of the broader community.

It's hard to believe it was only in 1984 that Advance Australia Fair, first performed in 1878, formally replaced the outdated God Save The Queen as our national anthem.

That followed a referendum in 1977 that asked voters to nominate their preferred national song from a list that also included Waltzing Matilda and the largely-forgotten Song Of Australia.

To be fair, it was probably the best of a bad bunch at the time but a look at the lyrics through the prism of 2020 Australia certainly casts the anthem in a new light.

The first concern is the anthem's second line - "for we are young and free".

When written in the 1870s, "young" referred to just a century of European settlement. That period offered no recognition of the 40,000 years of indigenous settlement that predated the arrival of the First Fleet, but it's no longer appropriate for our anthem to perpetuate that lie.

"For those who've come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share" in the second verse also denies the experience of indigenous Australians, so maybe it is time for a national conversation.

Ms Berejiklian offers a simple solution for the first verse - changing "young and free" to "one and free" - and it's hard to see why anyone would object to that.

The premier's solution does solve the problem of the second verse, though.

Perhaps I Am Australian or My Island Home - either in their current form or with modifications - might be better choices, or maybe we should call a national competition to find something new all together.

We will never find an anthem that pleases everyone, but we should no longer blindly tolerate an anthem that disregards Australia's first inhabitants.

This story Change one word or just change the national anthem? first appeared on Western Advocate.