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Advance Australia Fair

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Advance Australia Fair

Advance Australia Fair
The "Australia Fair Grand Concert Street Organ", which automatically plays "Advance Australia Fair"

National anthem of Australia
Lyrics Peter Dodds McCormick, 1878
Music Peter Dodds McCormick, 1878
Adopted 1984
Music sample

"Advance Australia Fair" is the national anthem of Australia. Created by the Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick, the song was first performed in 1878, and was sung in Australia as a patriotic song. It replaced "God Save the Queen". It did not gain its status as the official anthem until 1984, following a plebiscite to choose the national song in 1977. Other songs and marches have been influenced by "Advance Australia Fair", such as the Australian vice-regal salute.



"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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3] It was also frequently played at the start or end of official functions. Towards the end of World War II it was played in picture theatres after "God Save the King" and the American national anthem.[4]

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.[5]

Until 1974 "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".[6]

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.[7]

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%).[8]

"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,[9] 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:[10]


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.[11]

Orchestral version

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.[12]

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".[10] 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.[13]

The original lyrics published in 1879 were as follows:[14]

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 this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across 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.[15] A parliamentary colleague, Peter Slipper, said that Australia should consider another anthem.[16]

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.[17] 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,[18] but others, including former Labor leader Kim Beazley, have defended it.[19]

Alternative Christian verse

A Christian movement, Awakening, in the 1990s substituted an alternative second verse naming Christ and promoting Christian values.[20] An archived claim that the verse was sung in the 1930s at Smithton, Tasmania, is unsubstantiated and has been withdrawn from the original website. It was sung during the Global March for Jesus in 1998[20] and again at World Youth Day 2008 with the qualification "This is not the official verse, but a Catholic adaptation of the Australian National Anthem."[21]

The version was later controversially adopted by some Christian private schools for singing as a hymn at internal assemblies.[22] The substituted verse did not appear in the 1879 publication of Peter Dodds McCormick’s original work. The office of the Prime Minister at the time, Julia Gillard, said that, under national protocols, the anthem should not be modified and alternative words should not be used.[22]

Substituted verse
With Christ our head and cornerstone,
We'll build our Nation's might.
Whose way and truth and light alone
Can guide our path aright.
Our lives, a sacrifice of love
Reflect our Master's care.
With faces turned to heaven above
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair!


  1. ^ Letter to R.B. Fuller Esq. dated 1 August 1913
  2. ^ The Landing of the Australian Troops in Egypt from National Film and Sound Archive, at australianscreen online
  3. ^ (1943 – The Majestic Fanfare by Charles Williams, the ABC radio news theme)
  4. ^ 30 November 1943 p.4Sydney Morning Herald"Song and Two Anthems"
  5. ^ Lachlan Cranswick's Personal Homepage
  6. ^
  7. ^ Graham Freudenberg, "We've been sacked", The Sunday Age, 6 November 2005, p. 13
  8. ^
  9. ^ (proclamation by Governor-General dated 19 April 1984)
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^ Tommy Tycho—Arranger
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b Hiatt B. "Schools put God in our anthem" The West Australian 23 September 2011, pp 1, 3. Online version

External links

  • Lyrics on official Government website
  • with links and informationAdvance Australia FairStreaming audio of
  • Brief history
  • Australian Government websites:
    • Official published lyrics, music with band parts and sound recordings
    • Four-part musical score & lyrics PDF 169 KB
    • Australian National Anthem Audio for download (MP3 3.12 MB)
    • Department of Foreign Affair and Trade's webpage on Advance Australia Fair
    • Online scores held by Australian government libraries (The MusicAustralia collaboration)
  • Advance Australia Fair (Original Lyrics) – Australian singer Peter Dawson (c. 1930)
  • youtube video 1987 ABC Sign on and National Anthem (with sketches of Early Australia) (ignore begin of first program)
  • youtube video 1980 ABC Sign off and National Anthem (with sketches of Early Australia) (ignore end of previous program)
  • youtube video 2012 HD recording of National Anthem
  • youtube video "Advance Australia Fair" with English-Chinese bilingual subtitle
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