NFHM Blog Challenge Week 1: National

August is National Family History Month, and fellow geneablogger, Alex issued the NFHM Blog Challenge.

Using a theme of authors from the past, Alex posed an interesting challenge. It’s a great challenge, don’t get me wrong, but after thinking about it for weeks, nothing was jumping out at me, so I’ve decided to write my NFHM posts using a different theme.

Week 1: something NATIONAL related
Week 2: something FAMILY related
Week 3: something HISTORY related
Week 4: someing MONTH related


As I’m already a little behind, I’ll get going with Week 1 now. And for this I’ve decided to take a look at Australia’s national anthem, “Advance Australia Fair“.

So just how, when, and why did this song become the national anthem? Let’s find out.

So let’s start at the beginning. Peter Dodds McCormick is the man behind the anthem. Born in Scotland in c1834, he emigrated to Australia in 1855. The son of a seaman, Peter himself was a teacher for most of his life, and he was the man who composed “Advanced Australia Fair”, and used the pen-name Amicus. Written and first performed in the late 1870s, it went on to become a popular patriotic song.

In a letter dated 1 August 1913, McCormick described the circumstances that inspired him to write “Advance Australia Fair”:

One night I attended a great concert in the Exhibition Building, when all the National Anthems of the world were to be sung by a large choir with band accompaniment. This was very nicely done, but I felt very aggravated that there was not one note for Australia. On the way home in a bus, I concocted the first verse of my song & when I got home I set it to music. I first wrote it in the Tonic Sol-fa notation, then transcribed it into the Old Notation, & I tried it over on an instrument next morning, & found it correct. Strange to say there has not been a note of it altered since. Some alteration has been made in the wording, but the sense is the same. It seemed to me to be like an inspiration, & I wrote the words & music with the greatest ease.

While “Advance Australia Fair” was sung by a choir of around 10,000 at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901, it didn’t actually get “official” national anthem status until 1984.

Up until the mid-1970s Australia’s national anthem was actually “God Save the Queen”. And it was in this era that government decided the people should have their say on what anthem they’d like, and actually held a Referendum to decide. Voters were given a choice of four songs:
Advance Australia Fair
The Song of Australia
Waltzing Matilda
God Save the Queen
You can see the state-by-state results of this vote here, and it was as a result of this vote that Advance Australia Fair became Australia’s new national anthem in 1984.

You can tell by this vote, that “God Save the Queen” really wasn’t a favourite. But I think it hadn’t been for a while, as browsing on Trove there’s numerous references to “national song” competitions over the years, but for whatever reason nothing became official until the Referendum.

And while these days many Australians believe that Advance Australia Fair is rather boring as an anthem, you’ve got to agree that it sure is better than God Save the Queen.

2 Responses to “NFHM Blog Challenge Week 1: National”

  1. Alex Daw says:

    Dear Alona – what a great meme for National Family History Month. So simple. I do tend to over-complicate things! 🙂 I found this post fascinating (and of course very topical) particularly looking at the regional differences in the referendum. I think I was living in Sydney at the time and only vaguely aware of it and ineligible to vote given my age. But if I had been given the chance I think I might have plumped for Waltzing Mathilda which fits in with my background of growing up in the ACT.

  2. Glenice Gare says:

    Well, I did enjoy listening to ‘Advance Australia Fair”, beautifully sung. Of course, I am a ‘royalist’ and still love ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’

    I am off to the old country on Tuesday with Justin for 3 1/2 weeks. I can choose all the spots I would like to visit. Don opted to stay home to feed Marty and Toady. Of course I have filled the freezer with home made pies!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *