What are the lyrics to Australia’s national anthem, ‘Advance Australia Fair’?

16 August 2023, 10:23 | Updated: 18 September 2023, 16:26

Australia players sing their national anthem at The Cup of Nations (2019)
Australia players sing their national anthem at The Cup of Nations (2019). Picture: Alamy
Classic FM

By Classic FM

‘Australians all let us rejoice…’, goes ‘Advance Australia Fair’. But what are the rest of the lyrics, who wrote the song and when did it become Australia’s official national anthem?

We delve into the history and lyrics of Australia’s national anthem, which replaced ‘God Save the Queen’ as the official anthem in 1974 following a country-wide opinion poll.

Who composed the Australian national anthem?

‘Advance Australia Fair’ was written by Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick. And like all the best songs, it was dreamed up on a lonely bus ride home.

In a letter to a friend, McCormick describes the circumstances that inspired him to write the song: “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 and when I got home I set it to music.”

First performed in 1878, McCormick’s composition was widely sung as a patriotic song in Australia. In 1984, the song replaced ‘God Save the Queen’ as the country’s national anthem following a public vote in 1977.

Read more: What are the lyrics to New Zealand’s ‘God Defend New Zealand’?

7 year old girl singing The Australian National Anthem

Did the lyrics to Australia’s national anthem change?

McCormick’s 1878 lyrics have been widely criticised over the past few years for failing to represent Australia’s almost 800,000-strong indigenous population.

Several alternative lyrics were proposed to address the exclusion of Indigenous Australians. In 2009, it was suggested that the opening lines ‘Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free’ could be changed to ‘Australians let us stand as one, upon this sacred land’.

Six years later, Aboriginal Australian soprano Deborah Cheetham declined an invitation to sing the anthem at the 2015 AFL grand final, after the AFL turned down her request to replace the words ‘for we are young and free’ with ‘in peace and harmony’.

In a bid to change the lyrics for good, poet and former Victorian Supreme Court judge Peter Vickery began work on a new version in 2017. His proposed lyrics contain a new second verse, acknowledging Indigenous history, immigration, and calling for unity and respect.

In January 2021, the Australian government officially altered the song’s second line. The anthem now begins, ‘Australians all let us rejoice/For we are one and free’, instead of the previous version, ‘young and free’.

“In terms of culture, society, and population, we go back 60,000 years. We’re very definitely not young,” First Nations Foundation chair Ian Hamm, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Andrew Greene. “‘One and free’ looks for what brings us together. It’s actually a focal point for that discussion about who we are as a country.”

Read more: The greatest national anthems of all time

England v Australia - Rugby World Cup National Anthems

What are the lyrics to ‘Advance Australia Fair’?

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are one and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.