Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia’s National Anthem will be altered to be more inclusive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Announced on New Year’s Eve, Advance Australia Fair as of January 1 will change from “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free”.

The change was approved by the Governor-General David Hurley on the recommendation of the Morrison Government.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Prime Minister said the change of wording was in the spirit of unity.

“Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, but our country’s story is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose stewardship we rightly acknowledge and respect,” he said.

“In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we also now acknowledge this and ensure our national anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation.”

The Prime Minister notes the community and grit Australians showed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledges that the change of anthem best reflects Australian identity.

“As one country, we draw together the heritage of more than 300 national ancestries and languages, to chart our own unique Australian journey. We are the most successful multicultural and immigration nation on earth. Our national unity is a modern wonder,” he said.

“Indeed it was our Federation father Sir Henry Parkes whose vision for a united Australia understood this when he said: “What we are doing by this great Federal movement is not for us, but for them, for the untold millions that will follow us; until this land of Australia shall gather within its bosom all the fruits of the culture of the world; and until the flag of freedom shall be planted here so firmly and guarded with such a fervent patriotism, that all the powers on earth shall never assault it.”

“This unity draws strength today from many sources. From the unique connection Indigenous Australians have to this land.

“From the enlightened liberal democratic nation that was established 120 years ago today. And from the waves of migration that have shaped the Australian story since that time.”

Composed by Peter Dodds McCormick, Advance Australia Fair was first performed publicly in 1878. In 1984 the Hawke Government changed “Australian sons” to “Australians all let us rejoice” to acknowledge Australian women.

“Changing “young and free” to “one and free” takes nothing away, but I believe it adds much,” said the Prime Minister.

“’One and free’ is and must be the story of every Australian. It’s the way we truly Advance Australia Fair.”

The change comes in response to concerns raised by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in November.

“We need to recognise our Aboriginal heritage, and to say we’re young and free – it ignores the fact that they’ve inhabited the continent,” Berejiklian said at the time.

“I feel upset when others don’t feel the anthem reflects them.”

Berejiklian found support in Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, One Nation Party Leader Pauline Hanson and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Despite being a symbolic change, many are concerned the choice is tokenistic.

Gomeroi writer and academic Amy Thunig took to Twitter.

“Over policed, over incarcerated, Stolen Generations are ongoing, sovereignty never ceded but we still don’t have treaties or self-determination in our affairs … but sure change a singular lyric in a gammon anthem? Feels like gas lighting from a manipulative, toxic partner tbh,” she wrote.

Her sentiments were echoed by Wiradjuri author and former NRL star Joe Williams.

“’For we are one & free’ Is like a present from [your] nerd uncle who tries to be cool but fails hard. I mean, is that line trying to convince us, or you? Cos we definitely aren’t treated as one, & many sure as hell aren’t free.” he wrote.

After announcing the change, the Prime Minister has been criticised for his continued silence regarding recent outbreak of COVID-19.

“For the second time in two years the Prime Minister is welcoming the new year by taking absolutely no responsibility during a national crisis,” wrote Labor MP Josh Burns to Twitter.

“During another crisis, the Prime Minister’s nowhere to be seen — anyone notice a pattern?” wrote Greens Leader Adam Bandt.

 By Rachael Knowles