Australia searches for home-grown national anthem

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 12:00am

Today's English Corner looks at Australia, which celebrates its national day on Saturday.

Every country has its national anthem. Australia's is Advance Australia Fair, written by Scottish composer Peter Dodds McCormick in the late 19th century.

There is a long story behind how McCormick's creation was officially declared the national song on April 19, 1984.

Australia used to sing God Save The Queen (or King ) at national ceremonies from 1788 to 1974.

However, numerous commercial and official competitions had been held over the centuries to find a substitute. The first contest was held in 1840. The desire for a truly Australian anthem came up persistently before the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

Advance Australia Fair and Waltzing Matilda were the two favourites. Waltzing Matilda was composed in 1895, with lyrics by one of Australia's best known poets, A. B. (Banjo) Paterson.

On Australia Day, January 26, 1972, 400 entries were received in an Australia-wide national anthem quest.

The number gives an indication of the strength of public interest in finding a new anthem.

A year later a government-sponsored competition was announced, which drew 2,500 entries for the lyrics and 1,300 for the music.

The quest for a home-grown national anthem continued. In 1974, about 60,000 people were interviewed on their choice of national anthem from among three songs, including Advance Australia Fair and Waltzing Matilda.

Advance Australia Fair polled 51.4 per cent.

If we compare the original 19th century song with what we hear today, you may notice that some words have changed. When the song became the national anthem, more non-sexist and non-racist words were adopted. For instance, a line which originally read 'for loyal sons beyond the seas' became 'for those who've come across the seas'. After all, Australia is a country built by people from different cultural backgrounds.

Additional information from the Australian Consulate

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