We are one and free: HR lessons from the Australian National Anthem lyric change

January 5, 2021
We are one and free: HR Lessons from the national anthem. Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Many of us were satisfyingly surprised when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a one-word change to the Australian national anthem, especially those of us who teach HR topics as part of an MBA.

The change from “we are young and free” to “we are one and free”, is of great significance to First Nations people because it acknowledges the long history they’ve had on this continent known as Australia.

But for us with antenna attuned for HR concepts and principles, there is much to reflect upon.

Age discrimination

From the outset, an HR professional or lecturer is very conscious of applying age restrictions or qualifications to anything.

As the Legal Services Commission Law Handbook points out, “Under the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth) it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age in: employment and related matters including conferral of qualifications. education. access to premises.”

This should surely relate to a song sung in workplaces, as the national anthem surely is across Australia; if not daily, then at least weekly.

So removing the word young is a masterful stroke that will safeguard the government and, indeed, patriots, from falling foul of age discrimination laws.

There is one one in team

It is refreshing to see the phrase “we are one” in our national anthem now because as we know in HR terminology, the importance of coherence among team members is the understanding that we are one, albeit with some being more one than others.

This is not unnatural. As the children’s author, George Orwell, described in his hilarious night time tale, Animal Farm:

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others

Of course, he was talking about those mischievous pigs on a mythical farm, but we know in the workplace that the greater the share of trough access, the great the share “one” status.

Other HR readings of the national anthem lyric change

A final thought goes out to those fellow aficianados of HR theory and practice.

The reactions to changing one word out of the 107 words of the song, have provided rich data for further research into Change Management.

Furthermore, one might also be able to measure the presence or lack of Emotional Intelligence among various public commentators in relation to their coverage of this topic.

Equally, it will be interesting to see what the government puts into place regarding a Grievance Procedure or, indeed, for those Australians who have threatened to leave Australia, an Exit Interview protocol.

Heady times, indeed, and one that I’m sure fellow HR professionals will reflect upon for years to come in joyful strains.

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