02 January 2021


TOPICS: National anthem change; Australia Day

SOPHIE WALSH, CO-PRESENTER: Well, it's the change many have been pushing for, that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has now finally set in stone.

RICHARD WILKINS, CO-PRESENTER: Yes, the Australian national anthem words have officially been changed to we are "one and free" recognising our country's 65000 year Indigenous history. We're now joined by Senator Malarndirri McCarthy in Darwin and Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt in Perth. Welcome to you both. Thank you for coming on the show. Ken, how did you feel, sir, when you heard the words were changed?

KEN WYATT, MINISTER OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Actually, in the discussions I had with the Prime Minister, I was aware of what he was planning and it was a great reflection of our true history as a nation being as "one". I said to him, this is a great change. But our next changes are the pragmatic elements that will make a difference to the lives of Indigenous Australians on many fronts.

WALSH: Malarndirri, you've applauded New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian for her role in the push for this. How much does this change mean to you personally?

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Yeah, good morning. Look, certainly when the Premier announced it a couple of months ago that this would be something that she would like to see happen, there were many people who who came in behind that. I guess what I'm even more curious about now, though, is the fact that we can change one word so quickly and so efficiently. Is it possible now that the Prime Minister can have a New Year's resolution to see a Voice to Parliament where First Nations people are actually part of all of these discussions and debates?

WILKINS: Sticking with the national anthem, Australian boxer Anthony Mundine has argued that one word doesn't change the meaning of the whole song, saying it's always going to be a white supremacy song until the whole song is rewritten. Kim, what are your thoughts on this, well you clearly disagree with that?

WYATT: I disagree with that because I think that what we saw -- and I was in that and so would Anthony have been --- when we finally moved from God Save Our Queen to Advance Australia Fair, and there were a number of songs that were suggested as appropriate. And eventually we settled as a nation on our current national anthem. You have to have stability around those things that are important within the structure of any society. You can make minor changes that we saw two Prime Ministers do now to the national anthem. But we have to look at other measures that are much more important that will impact in a very different way.

WALSH: Anthony Mundine aside, it seems for many that this is a step in the right direction. But what more do you think needs to be done, now Malarndirri? I mean, you know, we're coming up to Australia Day. Do we need to change the date? Is this just the beginning?

MCCARTHY: Sure, sure. It's interesting, isn't it, that January always brings up these conversations. And I have to say that unless First Nations people right across the country collectively are included in the conversation, then it's really hard for our country to to land on one particular position. And naturally, with the January 26th coming up, we certainly, as the Labor Party, certainly believe that January 26 is still an important day. But what's missing is how First Nations people are involved with all the other ways of looking at that day. For example, you know, an early morning ceremony, just like you have with Anzac Day, with the dawn service, where you acknowledge the many deep truths about our country, where First Nations people were massacred and hurt and damaged in so many ways through successive policies over centuries. So you could have a particular dawn service on the 26th of January to remember and reflect the significance of that and still go on throughout the day to celebrate many other wonderful things about our country. So I think unless you have First Nations people fully involved, Soph, it's really hard to just accept that one Minister or one Prime Minister or one party can actually make the decision. We all collectively have to include First Nations people.

WILKINS: All good conversations to be having. We thank you both for your time. I'm sure you both agree, just as a finale, that when the first verse of the national anthem was sung in an Aboriginal Indigenous language, I thought it was fantastic.

MCCARTHY: Oh, beautiful. Absolutely beautiful, Richard.

WYATT: It was Richard. 

WILKINS: Happy new year to both of you. Thanks for coming on the show.