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Advance Australia Fair

"Advance Australia Fair" is the official national anthem of Australia. Created by the Scottish–born composer, Peter Dodds McCormick, the song was first performed in 1878, but did not gain its status as the official anthem until 1984. Until then, the song was sung in Australia as a patriotic song. In order for the song to become the anthem, it had to face a vote between the Royal anthem God Save the Queen and the "unofficial anthem" Waltzing Matilda. Other songs and marches have been influenced from Advance Australia Fair, such as the Australian Vice-Regal salute.


Advance Australia Fair was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick under the pen-name 'Amicus' (which means 'friend' in Latin), in the late 19th century, and 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 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.

Before its adoption as Australia's national anthem, Advance Australia Fair saw considerable use elsewhere. For example, Australia's national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, used it to announce its news bulletins until 1952. It was also frequently played at the start or end of official functions.

In 1973 the Whitlam government decided that the country needed an anthem that could represent Australia with "distinction" and started a competition to find one. The Australia Council for the Arts organised the contest which was dubbed the Australian National Anthem Quest. The contest was held in two stages, the first seeking lyrics and the second music, each having an AUD $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.

Advance Australia Fair emerged as the most popular choice for the national anthem after an opinion poll in 1974 (the Australian Bureau of Statistics polled 60,000 people nationally). A spokesman for the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam stated that the Government regarded the tune primarily as the national anthem.

At the same time as the 1977 referendum, a national plebiscite was held to choose the National Song. 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%).

Advance Australia Fair was adopted as the national anthem (the 1st and 3rd verses, with modified lyrics) on 19 April 1984 by a decision of the Labor government of Bob Hawke and a proclamation by the Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen.


Both the lyrics and melody of the official anthem have been criticised in some quarters as being dull and unendearing to the Australian people. 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. His Parliamentary colleague Peter Slipper thought Australia should consider another anthem.

Australian Labor Party politician Craig Emerson took aim at the famously archaic word "girt" in the lyrics: "Our home is girt by sea. This must rank as one of the worst lines of any national anthem. That Australia is an island should be pretty obvious, but is our anthem girt by a sea of mediocrity? However, the Labor leader, Kim Beazley argued "Well, look. I stand up on behalf of girt. Girt by sea needs to be celebrated and if we can't do that regularly when Australia enjoys its sporting triumphs, at the beginning of our school assemblies and I think something would be lost that is new and decent and essential to the Australian character.



Since the original lyrics were written, there have been several changes. Some of these were minor while others have significantly changed the song.

1901 Federation adaptation

At Federation in 1901, a new version of the third verse was sung.


For its adoption as the national anthem, the second, third and fourth verses were replaced by a modified version of the third verse sung at Federation and the first line of the first verse was changed from "Australia's sons let us rejoice" to "Australians all let us rejoice".

'Missing' verse?

Some have claimed there is a missing sixth verse. This verse has an overtly Christian overtone. The first performance in recent memory of this verse was during the Global March for Jesus in 1998. The most recent known performance of the verse was at a special service at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, on 10 July 2005 with then Prime Minister John Howard present. However the verse is in fact not McCormick's. It is not known who the true author of the verse is, or when it was first penned and used.

Copyright status

Even though any copyright of Peter Dodds McCormick' original lyrics has expired as he died in 1916, the Commonwealth of Australia does copyright the officially proclaimed lyrics and particular arrangements of music. Non-commercial use of the anthem is permitted without case-by-case permission, but commercial use does require permission.


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