Advance Australia Fair facts for kids
|National anthem of||Australia|
|Lyrics||Peter Dodds McCormick, November 1878|
|Music||Peter Dodds McCormick, November 1878|
|Adopted||9 April 1974|
"Advance Australia Fair" is the national anthem of Australia. Written by Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick, the song was first performed in 1878, sung in Australia as a patriotic song. It first replaced "God Save the Queen" as the official national anthem in 1974, following a nationwide opinion survey. "God Save the Queen" was reinstated in January 1976, but a plebiscite to choose the national song in 1977 preferred "Advance Australia Fair", which was restored in 1984. "God Save the Queen" became known as the royal anthem, which is used at public engagements attended by the Queen or members of the Royal Family. The 1984 version of "Advance Australia Fair" has lyrics modified from McCormick's original and verses trimmed down from four to two. In January 2021, the lyrics were changed again.
"Advance Australia Fair" was composed in the late 19th century by Peter Dodds McCormick under the pen-name "Amicus" (which means "friend" in Latin). It was first performed by Andrew Fairfax at a Highland Society function in Sydney on 30 November 1878. The song quickly gained popularity and an amended version was sung by a choir of around 10,000 at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. In 1907 the Australian Government awarded McCormick £100 for his composition.
In a letter to R.B. Fuller, dated 1 August 1913, McCormick described the circumstances that inspired him to write "Advance Australia Fair":
One night I attended a great concert in the Exhibition Building, when all the National Anthems of the world were to be sung by a large choir with band accompaniment. This was very nicely done, but I felt very aggravated that there was not one note for Australia. On the way home in a bus, I concocted the first verse of my song & when I got home I set it to music. I first wrote it in the Tonic Sol-fa notation, then transcribed it into the Old Notation, & I tried it over on an instrument next morning, & found it correct. Strange to say there has not been a note of it altered since. Some alteration has been made in the wording, but the sense is the same. It seemed to me to be like an inspiration, & I wrote the words & music with the greatest ease.
The earliest known sound recording of "Advance Australia Fair" appears in The Landing of the Australian Troops in Egypt (circa 1916), a short commercial recording dramatising the arrival of Australian troops in Egypt en route to Gallipoli.
Before its adoption as Australia's national anthem, "Advance Australia Fair" had considerable use elsewhere. For example, Australia's national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, used it to announce its news bulletins until 1952. It was also frequently played at the start or end of official functions. Towards the end of World War II it was one of three songs played in certain picture theatres, along with "God Save the King" and the American national anthem.
Competitions, plebiscite and adoption
In 1951 there was a competition for a new national anthem to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Federation of Australia. The entry by the Austrian-born conductor Henry Krips, "This Land of Mine", won the competition but it was decided to make no change to the status quo.
Until 1974 "God Save the Queen" was Australia's national anthem. In 1973 the Whitlam government decided that the country needed an anthem that could represent Australia with "distinction" and started a competition to find one. The Australia Council for the Arts organised the contest, which was dubbed the "Australian National Anthem Quest". The contest was held in two stages, the first seeking lyrics and the second music, each having an A$5,000 prize for the winning entry. On the recommendation of the Council for the Arts, none of the new entries were felt worthy enough, so the contest ended with the suggestions for "Advance Australia Fair", "Waltzing Matilda" and "Song of Australia".
In 1974 the Whitlam government then performed a nationwide opinion survey to determine the song to be sung on occasions of national significance. Conducted through the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it polled 60,000 people nationally. "Advance Australia Fair" was chosen and was enshrined as the national song, to be used on all occasions excepting those of a specifically regal nature. A spokesman for the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam stated that the Government regarded the tune primarily as the national anthem. During the 1975 election campaign following the dismissal of Whitlam by Sir John Kerr, it was proposed by David Combe that the song be played at the start of the Labor Party's official campaign launch on 24 November 1975 at Festival Hall, Melbourne. Whitlam's speechwriter Graham Freudenberg rejected this idea, on two grounds, one of which was that the status of the anthem was still tentative.
In January 1976 the Fraser government reinstated "God Save the Queen" for royal, vice-regal, defence and loyal toast occasions as well as making plans to conduct a national poll to find a song for use on ceremonial occasions when it was desired to mark a separate Australian identity. This was conducted as a plebiscite to choose the National Song, held as an optional additional question in the 1977 referendum on various issues. "Advance Australia Fair" received 43.29% of the vote, defeating the three alternatives, "Waltzing Matilda" (28.28%), "Song of Australia" (9.65%) and the existing national anthem, "God Save the Queen" (18.78%).
"Advance Australia Fair", with modified lyrics from the original (see development of lyrics), was adopted as the Australian national anthem on 19 April 1984 by a proclamation by the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, on a recommendation by the Labor government of Bob Hawke. "God Save the Queen", now known as the royal anthem, continues to be played alongside the Australian national anthem at public engagements in Australia that are attended by the Queen or members of the Royal Family.
The lyrics of the anthem were officially adopted in 1984:
Even though any copyright of Peter Dodds McCormick's original lyrics has expired, as he died in 1916, the Commonwealth of Australia claims copyright on the official lyrics and particular arrangements of music. Non-commercial use of the anthem is permitted without case-by-case permission, but the Commonwealth government requires permission for commercial use.
The wordless orchestral version of "Advance Australia Fair" that is now regularly played for Australian victories at international sporting medal ceremonies, and at the openings of major domestic sporting, cultural and community events, is by Tommy Tycho, an immigrant from Hungary. It was first commissioned by ABC Records in 1984 and then televised by Channel 10 in 1986 in their Australia Day Broadcast, featuring Julie Anthony as the soloist.
Development of lyrics
Since the original lyrics were written in 1879, there have been several changes, in some cases with the intent of increasing the anthem's inclusiveness and gender neutrality. Some of these were minor while others have significantly changed the song. The original song was four verses long. For its adoption as the national anthem, the song was cut from four verses to two. The first verse was kept largely as the 1879 original, except for the change in the first line from "Australia's sons let us rejoice" to "Australians all let us rejoice". The second, third and fourth verses of the original were dropped, in favour of a modified version of the new third verse which was sung at Federation in 1901.
The original lyrics published in 1879 were as follows:
The 1901 Federation version of the third verse was originally sung as:
- Third verse
- Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
- We'll toil with hearts and hands;
- To make our youthful Commonwealth,
- Renowned of all the lands;
- For loyal sons beyond the seas
- We've boundless plains to share;
- With courage let us all combine
- To advance Australia fair.
- In joyful strains then let us sing
- Advance Australia fair!*
Both the lyrics and melody of the official anthem have been criticised in some quarters as being dull and unendearing to the Australian people. A National Party senator, Sandy Macdonald, said in 2001 that "Advance Australia Fair" is so boring that the nation risks singing itself to sleep, with boring music and words impossible to understand. A parliamentary colleague, Peter Slipper, said that Australia should consider another anthem.
Specific criticism is also directed at the fourth line of lyrics, "our home is girt by sea", for its use of the archaic word "girt" to acknowledge the fact that Australia is an island. The current version of the anthem has a mix of old and new language, rather than having one style of language consistently throughout. Criticism has come from various people, including Australian Labor Party politician Craig Emerson, but others, including former Labor leader Kim Beazley, have defended it.
- Australian Government websites: