Indigenous advocate and TV personality Brooke Boney says she’s “sick of the discussions” and that the time has come to change the lyrics to the Australian national anthem to better acknowledge First Nations people.
Her comments come after New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she believed in changing the national anthem to better reflect Australia’s Indigenous history.
Ms Berejiklian has called for a change to the lyrics of the anthem so it declares “we are one and free” instead of we are “young and free”.
Boney, a Gamilaroi woman, told Nine’s Today show on Wednesday morning that the current lyrics didn’t pay enough tribute to Indigenous Australians.
“I get sick of having these discussions and people throw their toys out of the cot and we can’t have a mature and sensible reaction to our future as a nation,” she said.
“We’re not young and free when the government refuses to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.
“We are not young and free when every kid in a Northern Territory juvenile facility is black.
“It doesn’t pay tribute to the fact that this is the home – all of us are a part of this incredible legacy of the oldest continuous culture of anywhere in the world. If we can’t recognise it in our anthem, then where can we recognise that?”
Ms Berejiklian on Wednesday publicly threw her support behind the “very small” word change but declared that it mattered and would “make such a difference” to Indigenous Australians.
“I feel hurt for people who don’t feel that the national anthem includes them,” Ms Berejiklian said on Sunrise.
“We have a very proud Indigenous culture of tens of thousands of years on this continent, so to say we are young and free ignores that.
“I think it would be appropriate for us to acknowledge that we are all united and we have a very proud, long history of Indigenous First Nations here in Australia and I think that should be reflected in our anthem.”
Ms Berejiklian has called for a national discussion on the topic.
The lyric change has gained increasing attention as multiple Indigenous NRL players refuse to sing the anthem and say it does not reflect their story as First Nations people.
“That one word might make a difference to some people,” Ms Berejiklian told Today.
“After the horrible year we’ve had, I just really appreciate as a leader how important it is to bring people together, how important it is to include our history in total and that’s why I’m supporting this one word change.”
The Premier also noted the anthem had been changed in the past.
“When I was a very young child, I remember changing back then,” she said.
“When I was a kid it was ‘Australian sons let us rejoice’ and it’s been changed to ‘Australians all let us rejoice’.”
Ms Berejiklian said she wanted to speak out on the issue because she felt passionately about wanting to support Indigenous communities.
She said her own pride in her Armenian background also informed her view.
But the proposed word change hasn’t won over every politician with federal Nationals Senator Matt Canavan declaring he didn’t like it.
“I don’t think the writers of this anthem when they say ‘young’ are intending any kind of offence here,” he said in a heated argument with Northern Territory Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy on Today.
“We are a young nation. We have old civilisations and we have a rich history over tens of thousands of years but we are a young country. That is something important to recognise as well.
“So I just think it is another example of people taking offence when there was no offence intended.”