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Waltzing Australia


Monday, October 25, 2010

10. The National Anthem

Today on the radio they were discussing our national anthem - Advance Australia Fair, and giving opinions on whether people should sing along when it is played. One (or was it both?) of the radio chaps said people should not sing the words, said it was "un-Australian". Un-Australian my foot - whenever I hear Advance Australia Fair being played on the television (example just before the Grand Final or the Olympics, etc.), I always stand and I sing the words with gusto. I mean how could anyone say singing the words to your national anthem is un-Australian? Or un-French if you're French, of un-Greek if your Greek, etc? Bah, what a load of bollocks - sing, sing along I say and be proud.

The Littlest Republican
I remember when I was a child when we went to the pictures, God save the queen was always played before the picture (film) started and we had to stand up and it annoyed me because the seats would flip up every time you stood and fwit whack it'd hit you right on the back of the legs. When I asked mum and dad why did I have to stand up for I was told it was God save the queen. Who's the queen I wanted to know and on being told she was in England I took an instant dislike to her and wanted to know why do I have to stand up for some old bag in another country?

When in my late teens, every night when the television station closed for the night (there was no such thing as 24 hour televsion then) just before closing they played - you've guessed it. God save the blooming queen. As a young nineteen year old I made sure my derrière was firmly ensconced on the seat!

Then some years later we at last had a national anthem that was ours - Advance Australia Fair. And about time too, who ever heard of a country having as their national anthem one belonging to another country?

A Little Bit of History
In 1860, Carl Linger from South Australia wrote ‘The Song of Australia’ and it was suggested to the Prime Minister in 1929 as a possible national anthem.
Before the 1956 Olympic Games which were held in Melbourne, the issue of an Australian national anthem was again raised (quite persistantly) and the two songs most in favour were "Advance Australia Fair" and "Waltzing Matilda". Waltzing Matilda was written in 1895 by Banjo Patterson, one of our most famous poets.

There were other, later polls and in 1974 "Advance Australia Fair" polled 51.4% and after this the  Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam announced that "Advance Australia Fair" would be the national anthem, except on specifically Royal occasions, when both it and God save the queen would be played.

Liberal Backflip
But in 1976, after a change of government, God save the queen was reinstated for Royal, vice-regal, defence and loyal toast occasions, with ‘Advance Australia Fair’ to be played on all other official occasions. (It should perhaps be noted for the benefit of non-Australians, that we had a Labor government in 1974 and a Liberal one in 1976)

So now we come to May 1977 and a national poll was conducted to get the public choice of a national anthem (more than seven million people were issued with ballot papers)and the results were - "Advance Australia Fair" 43.2%, "Waltzing Matilda" 28.3%, "God save the queen" 18.7% and ‘Song of Australia’ 9.6%.

Our own anthem at last
It was not until April 1984 that the Governor-General issued a proclamation that God save the queen was designated the Royal Anthem, to be played at public engagements in Australia attended by the members of the Royal family. "Advance Australia Fair" was finally declared to be the Australian national anthem.

I came upon this version of Waltzing Matilda and I must say it is really a wonderful rendition.

I would also like to add "Song of Australia", which to my mind is on a par with "Advance Australia Fair" and in some ways I think I like better.

Here is the first verse of "Song of Australia"
There is a land where summer skies
Are gleaming with a thousand dyes,
Blending in witching harmonies, in harmonies;
And grassy knoll, and forest height,
Are flushing in the rosy light,
And all above in azure bright -

As there are five verses in all, rather than write them all, you can read them here which is from the Flinders Ranges Research and has information about its writer, Caroline Carleton.

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