ON THIS DAY…… 30th November 1878

Australia’s National Anthem performed for the first time in public

Australia’s national anthem, ‘Advance Australia Fair was composed by Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick, who arrived in Sydney in 1855, taking up a position as a public school teacher in New South Wales. McCormick was heavily involved in the community as well as the Scottish Presbyterian church, and he developed a reputation for both his singing voice and his compositions. He composed around 30 patriotic songs, one of which was ‘Advance Australia Fair’. ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was first performed in public on 30 November 1878. The occasion was the St Andrew’s Day concert of the Highland Society. Initially, the song was published under the pseudonym of “Amicus”, which is Latin for ‘friend. In line with its nationalistic flavour, ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was performed by a 10,000-voice choir at the inauguration Federation ceremony for the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia, on 1 January 1901. McCormick was subsequently paid one hundred pounds for his composition in 1907, and he registered it for copyright in 1915. Early in the twentieth century, the song was proposed as a possible national anthem for Australia, to replace the Royal anthem ‘God Save the King’ (later ‘Queen’), but no official decision was made. The first of many competitions to find a new national anthem was held in 1840, with subsequent quests and competitions in ensuing years, including the lead-up to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Another Australia-wide national anthem quest was held in 1972-3. Following this, in 1977, the government held a referendum and attached a national plebiscite to choose a new anthem. ‘Advance Australia Fair’ won with 43% against Banjo Paterson’s ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with 28% and Carl Linger’s ‘Song of Australia’ with 10%. In favour of keeping ‘God Save the Queen were 19%. In 1984, the Australian government made the final decision to change the national anthem as it sought to reinforce its independence from England. ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was adopted as the National anthem of Australia on 19 April 1984.