About Australia’s national anthem
This article is written with great respect to all Australians. Put together by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah, the discussion explores the background to our national anthem.
While many of us may know the words of the Australian national anthem through school assemblies and ceremonies, how many of us truly understand the meaning of these words and the history behind the anthem?
Advance Australia fair replaced its predecessor God Save the Queen in an attempt to switch to a more uniquely Australian representation of our culture. The notion was first put forward in the early 1820’s however Advance Australia fair was not officially declared Australia’s national anthem by the Governor-General until 19 April 1984, close to 160 years after the first alternative national anthems were proposed.
The Anthem was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and the lyrics were slightly different to the version we know today. Some of the lyrics have been altered including “Australians all let us rejoice” which was originally “Australia’s sons let us rejoice”, “For those who’ve come across the seas” which was originally “For loyal sons beyond the seas”. While some changes have been made in order to better represent our nation, there is still much debate as to how inclusive our national anthem is of our culture and people.
In the lead up to the decision a public opinion poll in 1974 sampled roughly 60,000 people on their preference between Advance Australia Fair; Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda or Linger’s Song of Australia. Advance Australia Fair polled 51.4 per cent. This prompted Gough Whitlam, the prime minister at the time to announce that it would become our national anthem. Since then there has been much debate and Waltzing Matilda remains our ‘unofficial’ national anthem, as it is relatable and speaks the language of everyday Australians.
This is a stark contrast from the formal nature of Advance Australia fair, which includes language foreign to many Australians today such as ‘toil’ and ‘girt’. While Waltzing Matilda was appealing as it was informal, simple and upbeat in melody it was these reasons why it was also thought not to be appropriate and Advance Australia fair was instead chosen by the majority of Australians.