Origins

Advance Australia Fair was composed by Glasgow-born Peter Dodds McCormick (1834?-1916), who used the pen-name "Amicus", a Latin word meaning "friend".

The first public performance is thought to have been given in Sydney on November 30th (St Andrew's Day), 1878 at the St Andrew's Day concert of the Highland Society. The singer was a Mr Andrew Fairfax.

The song was later published by W.J. Paling and Company.

It was also sung by a choir of 10,000 at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia (1 January 1901), with a few amendments by McCormick including the addition of the words "our youthful Commonwealth".

In 1907, the Australian Government - the Commonwealth Government of Australia - awarded McCormick £100 for his composition.

McCormick died in 1916. His obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald stated prophetically:

Mr. McCormick established a reputation with the patriotic song, "Advance Australia Fair", which [...] has come to be recognised as something in the nature of an Australian National Anthem.

The copyright on Advance Australia Fair ended in 1966, fifty years after McCormick's death.

The Australian Labor Party policy for the 1972 elections included finding an alternative to God Save the Queen. The ALP won office in that election, and the Whitlam government (1972-75) announced in the Prime Minister's 1973 Australia Day address that a competition would be held under the auspices of the Australia Council for the Arts to find a new Australian national anthem.

Although a large number of submissions were received (2,500 lyric and 1,400 music entries), none were considered acceptable.

The judges recommended that one of three existing Australian songs - Advance Australia Fair, Banjo Patterson's Waltzing Matilda or Carl Linger's Song of Australia - be selected.

On April 8th, 1974, opinion polls were held by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the government announced that henceforth Advance Australia Fair was to be Australia's anthem, but with God Save The Queen to be played when (British) royalty was present.

The Whitlam government was dismissed by the Governor-General (Sir John Kerr) on November 11, 1975, and was replaced by the Fraser (Liberal) government (1975-1983).

In January 1976, the Fraser government modified the rules governing the national anthem. Advance Australia Fair was to be used, without words, on non-regal occasions, and God save the Queen was to be used on all royal, vice-regal, defence, and loyal toast occasions.

The Fraser Government held a plebiscite, the National Song Poll, on 21 May 1977.

The results were: (from http://www.ausflag.com.au/debate/amr/amr23.html):


Votes % (rounded)
First Past the Post:
Advance Australia Fair 2,940,854 43%
Waltzing Matilda 1,918,206 28%
God Save the Queen 1,257,341 19%
Song of Australia 652,858 10%
TOTAL 6,769,259 100%
After Distribution of Preferences:
Advance Australia Fair 4,415,642 65%
Waltzing Matilda 2,353,617 35%
TOTAL 6,769,259 100%

Despite the poll results, adoption of the new anthem met with widespread opposition and obstruction.

Thus, it was not until 19th April, 1984 (in time for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics) that Advance Australia Fair finally became Australia's national anthem, under the Hawke (Labor) government (1983-1991).

Advance Australia Fair was to be played at all official and ceremonial occasions; God Save the Queen became the "royal anthem", to be played when the Queen or members of the Royal Family are present.

Changes were also made to three lines of the text:

McCormick's original words Official version
Verse 1, line 1: Australia's sons, let us rejoice Australians all, let us rejoice
Verse 3, line 3: To make our youthful Commonwealth To make this Commonwealth of ours
Verse 3, line 5: For loyal sons beyond the seas For those who've come across the sea

From the Melbourne Herald-Sun newspaper, 19 April 1984:

MIXED REACTION TO NEW ANTHEM

Australia's new national anthem - "Advance Australia Fair" - was greeted with mixed feelings yesterday.

Government departments were told yesterday that the song was now officially Australia's anthem.

It will be played at all Anzac Day services on April 25.

In a street survey in Melbourne, public opinion ranged from: "I prefer the old anthem of God Save the Queen," to "'Advance Australia Fair' is a great anthem."

Most of those asked between 16 and 20 believe that "any anthem is better than the old one".

Mrs Rebecca Browne, of East Bentleigh, said: "I don't really like 'Advance Australia Fair' as a national anthem. I think the 'Waltzing Matilda' tune, not the words, should be the anthem."

Mr John Gleeson, 31, of Albert Park said: "the new anthem is okay, no worries. It's better than the other one - much more Australian."

Mrs June Moore, 45, of Ringwood said: "It's not bad, but a bit slow. It's the best of what's offering, though."

Mr Peter Brown, 21, of Middle Park said: "I don't like flag-waving songs," Click go the Shears' would be just as good - at least sheep can identify with it."

'As good as any'

Tim Moore, 16,of Ringwood said: "I was most dissatisfied with the old anthem. This is as good as any."

The Premier, Mr Hamer said yesterday he wondered how many people knew the first line for "Advance Australia Fair".

Most people knew the first line of "God Save the Queen" but not many knew all the verses.

"God Save the Queen" was correct when the Queen or her representatives (the Governer-General (sic) and the State Governers (sic) ) were at official functions.

But he had no objection to "Advance Australia Fair" being played as Australias's national anthem at functions such as the Olympic Games, concerts and football matches.

The song starts:

"Australia's sons, let us rejoice.
"For we are young and free."