Advance Australia Fair is, for those of you not familiar with the antipodes, Australia's National Anthem. First performed in public on the 30th of November, 1878, by Mr. Andrew Fairfax, it's a lovely song with an up-tempo melody which reflects the spirit and idle pride most of us have in our country.

Originally, schoolkids and patriots were belting out God Save The Queen at assemblies and ANZAC Day parades. In 1974, however, Advance Australia Fair was adopted as the anthem, but God Save The Queen was to be played in its stead when Royalty was present. This is fairly typical of Australian Culture... We may not do it every day, but we don't want to offend Our Liz when she's visiting, do we?

The reasons for the change were governmental. The Whitlam Government used a change to the National Anthem as part of its 1972 election campaign, and in 1973 the Australian Council for the Arts held a competition to find an alternative. Not one of the 3900 entries was deemed suitable... We can be a picky lot. The judges then recommended that three existing songs, Advance Australia Fair, Waltzing Matilda or Song of Australia be considered as the new anthem. In 1974 the Australian Bureau of Statistics held opinion polls, and Advance Australia Fair came out on top.

The Fraser Government in 1976 changed the protocol for the National Anthem. Advance Australia Fair was now to be used without words on non-regal occasions, and God Save The Queen used on regal, defence, and royal occasions. A plebiscite was held on the 21st of May, 1977, called the National Song Poll. After Preferences, Advance Australia Fair held 65% of the vote, with the runner-up being Waltzing Matilda. I guess that a song about a theiving swagman who commits suicide instead of going to jail is only half as appealing as Advance Australia Fair... But it's amusing that it was appealing at all. I love my Kinsmen.

Public opposition to the results of the poll continued until April 19th, 1984, when Advance Australia Fair was adopted as the National Anthem. God Save The Queen was instated as the Royal Anthem, to be played in addition when Royalty was present.

Little known to many people, even amongst learned Aussies, is that the National Anthem is not the same length as the song. The song, written by Peter Dodds McCormick, has 5 verses, whereas the anthem only has 2. That this is not well known is hardly surprising, as most Aussies don't even know the second verse, and tend to mutter along, and then join in with a resounding "Advance Australia Fair!" at the end... at least they're trying.

The full song is as such:-

Verse One
Australians all let us rejoice
For we are young and free
With golden soil
And wealth for toil
Our home is girt by sea
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare
On history's page
Let every stage
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Verse Two
When gallant Cook from Albion sail'd,
To trace wide oceans o'er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England's flag,
The standard of the brave;
With all her faults we love her still,
"Brittannia rules the wave!"
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Verse Three
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!"

Verse Four
While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We'll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England, Scotia, Erin's Isle,
Who come our lot to share,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Verse Five
Shou'd foreign foe e'er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We'll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;
Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean's roll,
Her sons in fair Australia's land
Still keep a British soul.
In joyful strains the let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Interestingly enough, the verses dropped were not just the last 3 in the interests of shortness, but the verses with references to the British. Quite a lot of Australian's have a gentle hatred of England, most probably a throwback to the debacle at the Eureka Stockage, and other general historical slights the British tend to perpetrate on their colonies. We may love our Queen (Well, you've got to, really), but bugger the country.

There have also been a few changes to the wording of the lyrics we do use for the national anthem, mostly for reasons of political correctness, as an attempt to include all Australians. Strangly enough, the corrections didn't distroy the character of the song, and there were only three to speak of:-

  • Australia's sons, let us rejoice became Australians all, let us rejoice
  • To make our youthful Commonwealth became To make this Commonwealth of ours
  • For loyal sons beyond the seas became For those who've come across the sea