Australia has an odd reputation for its citizens not knowing all the words to its national anthem. However could we be forgiven as the song has only officially been our national anthem since 1984? And there’s the fact that the anthem was changed on two occasions.
The national anthem in its present state has two verses. It may come as a surprise to many that Advance Australia Fair was originally four verses long. The original first verse has been kept, however verse two, which looked at the British discovering Australia (not that they were actually first, mind!), was replaced by a new second verse when the song was sung at federation. This verse was later changed again when the song became the national anthem in 1984.
The present second verse is an amalgamation of the themes of the original second, third and fourth verses. The third verse of the original, pre-federation version looked at how other nations see Australia and its English colonisation. Verse four looked at how the Australian people would defend the country if it were attacked.
Throughout all these changes, the simple tune has remained the same.
Advance Australia Fair has not stood unopposed as our national anthem however. There is a movement which wishes that the anthem should be changed to Waltzing Matilda, which has scored highly in polls on preferred national anthem.
In 2007 filmmaker Curtis Levy ran for a seat in the senate in New South Wales, promising that if elected he would fight for the anthem to change to Waltzing Matilda. A program which will air at 9.25 tonight on ABC1 looks at his campaign.
Australia Day marks arrival of Captain Cook’s First Fleet in 1788. The celebration of the occasion has been unwelcome in some Aboriginal groups who see the event as Invasion Day.
Another debate that regularly arises on Australia Day, especially this year with a visit last week from future monarch of Australia Prince William, is that of an Australian Republic. This is however, according to Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, not on the Labor Government’s agenda at the moment.
However, for the moment at least, our anthem and day are both here and today is the day to celebrate them – so have fun this Australia Day!