Thirty-eight years ago, Australia had a plebiscite to determine what our national anthem would be. Now, in most countries, “plebiscite” and “referendum” are synonymous, but in Australia, there is a difference: a referendum votes on changes to the constitution, are compulsory, and must be acted upon. An example of a referendum in Australia is the 1999 independence referendum. A plebescite, on the other hand, votes on matters which don’t effect the constitution, aren’t compulsory, and need not be acted upon.
Australia has a National Anthem and a Royal Anthem. The Royal Anthem (God Save the Queen) is played at events where the Queen is present. The National Anthem (Advance Australia Fair) is played at ever other occasion.
There were four songs for voting on in the plebiscite.
Advance Australia Fair won, with 43.29% of the vote, winning everywhere except South Australia and the ACT. It places highest in New South Wales, with 51.35%, and lowest in South Australia, with 24.07%. The first and third verses are used in the current National Anthem.
Waltzing Matilda came second, with 28.28% of the vote. It scored highest in the ACT, where it won with 48.68%. There are still lots of proponents for Waltzing Matilda as a national anthem today. Someone listen to the lyrics and tell me you honestly think this is a good idea for a national anthem.
God Save the Queen came third, with 18.78% of the vote. It had been functioning as our national anthem prior to the plebiscite, and, as I said, is still our Royal Anthem today. It scored lowest in the ACT, with only 6.65%, and highest in Western Australia, with 23.17%. Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania also gave it over 20%.
Song of Australia came last, with only 9.65% of the overall vote. However, it won the plebiscite in South Australia, with 33.95%, and it also did well in Western Australia, with 15.48%, and in the Northern Territory, with 14.58%.
I’m going to put up a few more videos of other relevant songs, and give you a bit of an explanation as to why.
I Am Australian is a very popular patriotic song written by the Seekers, and has not insignificant support as a potential national anthem.
I Still Call Australia Home is also a very popular song, with moderate support as a potential national anthem. QANTAS has used it for yonks in their promotional videos, however, so it’s still as the “QANTAS Song” and probably wouldn’t make it as an Australian song. This clip features a boy called Tyus Arndt from the Torres Strait Islands singing in his native language, Kala Lagaw Ya.
Jimmy Barnes Advance Australia Fair is Adam Hills’ surprisingly good remake of Advance Australia Fair to the tune of Working Class Man. He also makes a good point about “girt”, but I think we should make a concerted effort and bring “girt” into everyday usage. “Police surrounding a house, saying, ‘Come out, we have you girt!'”
Song of Australia (a different one, this time) is a little-known song written by Colin Buchanan, who, when not on Playschool or setting Bible verses to music, is actually quite a good country singer.
God Defend New Zealand / Aotearoa is the national anthem of New Zealand. This can’t be forgotten when talking about Australia’s national anthem, because Australia and New Zealand have so much shared history, culture, language, currency, and were very nearly the same country in 1901. I love God Defend New Zealand – it’s so much better than any of Australia’s national anthems, even Song of Australia. It has an epic tune and inspiring words.
It also includes a verse in Te Reo Maori at the beginning, which is great. Obviously that’s sort of not reasonable for Australia, with our 350+ indigenous languages, but I still love that it does that.
New Zealand also, like Australia, uses God Save the Queen as the Royal Anthem.
I’ve posted Ali Mills’ Kriol Waltjim Bat Matilda before, but it bears doing so again.
Finally, here’s another version of Advance Australia Fair I found, which has done quite well with synching the pictures to the lyrics.