Advertisement for the national anthem poll, 1974

Advertisement for the national anthem poll, 1974

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These are three 45-second radio announcements publicising the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) public opinion poll to determine which of three songs - Banjo Paterson's 'Waltzing Matilda', Peter McCormick's 'Advance Australia fair' or Carl Linger's 'Song of Australia' - should be adopted as Australia's new national anthem. The three advertisements feature a female narrator. Each advertisement contains a musical excerpt of one of the songs in contention.

TranscriptFurther information is available for this resource.

Educational value

  • The national anthem poll publicised in these advertisements was conducted by the ABS in 1974 at the instigation of the federal Labor government. The survey drew on a sample of approximately 60,000 people. The poll found that of the three songs 'Advance Australia fair' was the most popular, polling at 51.4 per cent.
  • In 1973, the year before the poll was conducted, the Australia Council for the Arts held a national competition to find a 'distinctively Australian national anthem'. The competition attracted more than 1,400 entries for lyrics and 1,200 for music. However, the judges felt that none of the entries equalled the quality of traditional songs such as 'Waltzing Matilda', 'Song of Australia' and 'Advance Australia fair', and recommended that the choice be made from these three songs.
  • In 1974 Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam announced that 'Advance Australia fair' would become the national anthem. In 1976 the Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser reinstated 'God save the Queen' for royal and certain official occasions. In 1977 Fraser held a full national poll and a referendum. The poll, conducted by the Australian Electoral Office, reconfirmed 'Advance Australia fair' as the most popular song (43.2 per cent) ahead of 'Waltzing Matilda' (28.3 per cent), 'God save the Queen' (18.7 per cent) and 'Song of Australia' (9.6 per cent).
  • Peter Dodds McCormick (c1834-1916), a Scottish immigrant, composed the music and lyrics to 'Advance Australia fair' in 1878. The original song was first performed in public in 1878 and again at the inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1901. The current version, with lyrics slightly revised from its 19th-century incarnation by the National Australia Day Council in 1981, finally replaced 'God save the Queen' as the Australian national anthem for all occasions in 1984.
  • The push for an Australian national anthem dates back to at least the 1820s, and federation renewed interest in the idea of a distinctly Australian anthem as an important symbol of Australia as an independent nation. The 1956 Melbourne Olympics sparked further public debate when Australian victories were celebrated with the same anthem as that of Britain. In 1972 prime minister Whitlam argued for a national anthem that 'fittingly embodies our national aspirations'.
  • The Australian national anthem is a symbol that identifies Australia at public events both within Australia and abroad. Its official and commercial use is guided by a set of protocols for its performance and arrangement, as well as etiquette associated with its rendition such as the custom of standing when it is played at ceremonial or public events. 'God save the Queen' is the royal anthem and is still played at the beginning of local public events attended by members of the royal family. 'Advance Australia fair' is usually played at the end of such events.