2020 has thrown challenges at Australians like no year in decades.
We started the year blanketed in smoke with bushfires ravishing our land, we battled flood and the on-going drought, and we continue to live through a global pandemic that has taken loved ones, challenged our Australian way of life and wreaked unmatched economic havoc.
Through these challenges we have seen the very best Australians had to offer.
The selfless work of our front-line workers – who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe – be it from the fires or COVID-19.
The strength of community – from our physical neighbours to new-found virtual networks that have helped us navigate these challenges.
As Australians we have so much to be proud of.
We should take immense pride from one another – and the way in which we have supported each other and our communities through this testing year.
It seems right, that as a Nation we take a step forward together – to acknowledge the strength and power of working together – as one.
Our National Anthem is a celebration and acknowledgement of who we are as a Nation.
It should recognise our Indigenous, British and multi-cultural history and is a call to look forward in unity with a determination to build a stronger and more rewarding Australia for all.
Earlier this year, when asked about a potential change to the Anthem I indicated my support saying the proposal to change “We are young and free” to “We are one and free” removes a notion that has presented a challenge for many uniting behind our national song.
The change announced by the Prime Minister is small in nature – but significant in purpose.
It is an acknowledgment that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures date back 65,000 years.
It is an acknowledgement that people who have come across the seas, be it 250 years ago or families that have joined us over the years, are as much of this nation and our story as any other Australian.
And it is an acknowledgment that our future – our potential and our success – lies in us being one – one with ourselves and one with our history – the good and the bad.
Never before in our history has a single word better captured the uniqueness and achievement of the Australian story which is a rich history, we have worked to reconcile our differences and recognise our commonalities.
This journey has sometimes been painful. More so for some than others. It has been challenging, and it will continue to be challenging.
Changing the National Anthem is real reconciliation. It’s something I’ve believed in for quite some time and a significant defining moment for the Morrison Government.
It reflects, what I believe to be true, that we as a Nation stand more united and together today than we have at any time since 1788.
Not just united through the challenges we’ve experienced in 2020 – but united in our desire to better understand our past and work to enhance our future.
I say this because every day I am privileged to see how the next generation of Indigenous Australians are using their voice to ensure that they are building a future that will leave their children better off than they are today.
This is the Australian Dream – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
The change also acknowledges the success born out of the world’s longest living continuous culture, the ever-lasting impact of European settlement and the richness of multicultural influence in completing our nation’s fabric.
But is also acknowledges the sorrow that is sewn throughout – the hardships and disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians, not only today but for the years since Cook landed in Kamay, now known as Botany Bay.
Being ‘one’ reflects who we are – as a nation and as a people.
It acknowledges our divergent histories and signals that our future is one that will be walked together – side by side – and in partnership with one another.
One demonstrates the hope of Australia – the Australian Dream that opportunity is not defined by skin colour or post code – but by grift, endeavour and a commitment to achieve.
One signals our genuine commitment to ensure that no Australian is left behind.
One epitomises the success – for what we have to be proud – and the acknowledgement that despite differences, there is more that brings us together than drives us apart.
In a year of challenges, a personal 2020 highlight was the opportunity to reflect upon the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games – a crowning achievement and moment for Modern Day Australia two decades ago.
And within the highlights, none shone brighter than Cathy Freeman claiming Gold in the Women’s 400m. It was one of those Australian moments that will stand the test of time – it is a moment that unites us as we saw on our television screens and at the Sydney Olympic Stadium. It is a moment where race melts away and we all celebrate the achievement of an individual but equally as Australians.
It is a moment, where as a Nation – we were one.
It was a moment that gave me renewed hope – hope that our people no longer had to be seen as an Indigenous Australian– it was a moment where we all stood as equals and as Australians – as one.
As a child of the Stolen Generations mother, and a child who’s risen to have the opportunity to serve my fellow Australians in our Nation’s Parliament – I am proud to sing our Anthem.
As an Australian – I am proud to sing our Anthem.
I want future generations of Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – to feel the same pride – be it here at home or on the world stage.
This change will allow that – it acknowledges our shared histories and is true to the Australian Dream – an Australia where we continue to strive, as one, and we continue to overcome our challenges, together, to be free.
This is our moment of reconciliation – and together we should grasp it and commit to the journey as we continue to walk together.
By Ken Wyatt
Ken Wyatt is the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians.