Australia National Anthem

A prolific composer, Scottish-born Peter Dodds McCormick was moved to compose a national anthem for Australia when, having attended a concert of the world’s anthems, there was no anthem for Australia. His original lyrics heavily emphasized Australia’s ties to Britain (as Australia was a British colony at the time). Upon Australia’s inauguration as a separate Commonwealth on January 1, 1901, the song was performed, but the British “God Save the Queen” was still the official anthem of Australia. At this time, the third verse of McCormick’s original work was changed.

While “Advance Australia Fair” remained popular with the people in the decades following, no official national anthem other than “God Save the Queen” was declared. In 1974 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a national opinion poll of 60,000 and in 1977 a plebiscite for a national song was conducted. On each occasion, Advance Australia Fair was the preferred option (the other choices were the existing anthem “God Save the Queen” and the popular national songs “Song of Australia” and “Waltzing Mathilda”), and it was in consideration of such support that Advance Australia Fair was proclaimed as the national anthem by the Governor-General on 19 April 1984. From the original five-verse song, only the first and third verses are the official national anthem, with slight changes to make the song more gender-inclusive. The Governor-General of Australia (as the representative of the monarch) is greeted with an abbreviated version of the anthem consisting of the first four bars followed by the last four bars. (The Queen, as monarch of Australia, continues to use her royal anthem “God Save the Queen”.)

Special thanks to: Leonie Payne and John Farrell for some of this information.


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