"Waltzing Matilda": The Story of Australia's Unofficial National Anthem (2023)

Here's an interesting conversation I found on the internet the other day:

a non australian:"It came as a big surprise to me that 'Waltzing Matilda' is not the Australian national anthem."

(More than one) Australian:"Very good, it should be".

You probably have no idea what "Waltzing Matilda" is or why people appreciate it. I'm here to explain.


call me a coffee

"Advance Australia Fair" is the current national anthem of Australia. Contrary to what the title might suggest, the song's lyrics have generated heated debates about the message it conveys, particularly the concept of "justice". Consequently, some leading Australians have shown their disapproval by refusing to sing it as it is or not standing up when it is played.

As a foreigner, it's not up to me to judge whether speaking for all Australians is the right choice for a song. But you'll understand why you might not "fairly" represent all social groups if you watch this video by Aboriginal rapper Briggs:

(BTW: convidei Briggsthis interviewabout his ideas for a song for the national anthem).

In addition to the "justice" argument, some consider this to be the current anthem as well."So boring that the nation is in danger of falling asleep singing boring songs and words you can't understand." That's a pretty harsh assessment coming from a politician in one of his country's emblems, I think. Again, his opinion seems to be shared by a wider population.

(Video) 2018 Viennese Waltz

However, efforts have been made over the past decade to change at least a few letters. A whole project calledrecognition in the anthem, dedicated solely to rewriting music more inclusively and with input from Aboriginal leaders, was released in 2017. It's still happening.

As a result,other national folk songs were suggestedto replace "Advance Australia Fair". Possible options are"I am from Australia","I still call Australia my home","In between"or"Treated".

That's where "Waltzing Matilda" comes in.

"Waltzing Matilda": The Story of Australia's Unofficial National Anthem (1)

To be honest, the story of Waltzing Matilda is just as controversial as the Advance Australia Fair, but for different reasons. And they have nothing to do with dancing or girls.

Firstly, there is no official version from this 19th century.bush ballad(a popular song about life in the Australian bush). The lyrics were written in 1895 byBanjo Paterson, but they've evolved quite a bit since then. It turns out that the author kept alternative versions of his work that may have circulated in different places at the same time.

The song title itself means "Waltzing Matilda"."Travelling from place to place in search of work with all your possessions wrapped in a blanket and slung over your back."The origins of the expression go back to the German colonists of the 18th century. That's the only thing that remains the same about the song.

Changes to the text are due in part to how the story told in "Waltzing Matilda" has been used over the years. The letters were for example"altered by an arrangement of the song"to accompany an early 20th-century Billy Tea advertising jingle.

This version reads"You'll never take me alive he said"contrary to Paterson's original texts"Drowning Under the Coolibah Tree". Clearly, Billy Tea's version was much better suited for marketing purposes.

"Waltzing Matilda": The Story of Australia's Unofficial National Anthem (2)

Speaking of the text itself, it's a gem for linguists and Australian English enthusiasts. While not easy for the average person to understand (even Down Under), it does contain some uniquely Australian words, some of which are no longer used. Checkthis wikipedia articlewith explanations and translations.

As if the confusion over the lyrics wasn't enough, the melody has also been treated generously. Even during its creation.

When Paterson wrote the lyrics in the late 19th century, the song had been around since at least 1890 as "The Craigielee March". This song, in turn, was based on an 1818 song written by a Scottish composer.

In 1895 Paterson stayed on a sheep and cattle farm in remote Queensland, where one of the residents played the song from time to time, having heard it previously in Victoria. So Paterson simply provided the lyrics to a widely available piece of music.

Today they say there are as many as700 (!!!) versions ofthe music when it comes to style and genre. Some of them are quite surprising, like Gary Cohen's reworked for gangster purposes.this siteyou can follow the most famous performances of "Waltzing Matilda" in chronological order to see how they have been rearranged over time.

fine dustyThe country version is my favorite:

(Video) Slim Dusty - Waltzing Matilda

Aside from the lyrics and covers, the most controversial thing about "Waltzing Matilda" is the message it conveys.

To summarize: a boy is camping in a bush and drinking tea. Catch a stray sheep to bite. The owner of the sheep is angry because his property has been stolen. So, along with three policemen and the farmer, he goes in search of the guy. But the guy would rather kill himself than get caught. And so his ghost haunts the place where it happens. The end.

Not exactly a story to tell kids on a good night's sleep. And he's not really a model. And it's definitely not the picture Australia wants the world to see. There was even a case ofProhibit players from singing it at a rugby matchpurely for these reasons. However, the consensus among historians is that "Waltzing Matilda"refers to real events.

Why is this song so popular with many Australians?

I think it's mainly because the melody is simple and catchy, while the lyrics are repetitive and easy to remember. This is usually the key to any successful song. "Waltzing Matilda" seems to fit this definition perfectly.

"Waltzing Matilda": The Story of Australia's Unofficial National Anthem (3)

So here's proof that it really is one of the most popular songs in the country and beyond.

  • It is commonly sung by AFL (football) or rugby fans at matches.
  • The Australian women's national football team is called the Matildas.
  • Some military units in Oz use it as official music.
  • In the national referendum to choose Australia's national anthem in 1977, it lost only to "Advance Australia Fair" after receiving 28% of the popular vote (against 43% for the current anthem).
  • It has been re-recorded or integrated into other musical works by renowned musicians including Tom Waits, Rod Stewart and Australian Jessica Mauboy.
  • A more instrumental/vocal version was used in the famous film.Australia2008, directed by Baz Luhrmann, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

The historical context of the song is preserved in theWalzer Matilda Centerin Winton, close to where Paterson was staying when he wrote the lyrics. Located in remote QLD, this institution (apparently the first of its kind) doesn't just sing. The many exhibitions and activities organized by the museum also show life in the Australian outback then and now.

Not sure if Australian Aborigines adopt "Waltzing Matilda" as their national anthem. Finally, it makes no mention of First People heritage and focuses primarily on the country's "white" history. But at least no false claims are being made about 'fairness' or 'equal progress' for all Australians.

So back to the online exchange I mentioned above:

a non australian:"It came as a big surprise to me that 'Waltzing Matilda' is not the Australian national anthem."

(Video) The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

another australian:“In a way, man. Not officially, but in the hearts of millions of AUSSIES... 👍😁🇦🇺”

"Waltzing Matilda": The Story of Australia's Unofficial National Anthem (4)

So maybe it's time to organize a referendum soon to choose a more appropriate new national anthem? "Waltzing Matilda" would be one of the strong candidates. Of course yes.

Lyrics to "Waltzing Matilda" in one of its popular versions (e.g. Slim Dustys above):

A funny swagman once camped next to a billabong
In the shade of a coolibah tree,
He sang as he watched and waited for his billy to boil
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?

Matilda-Walzer, Matilda-Walzer
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?
He sang as he watched and waited for his billiards to boil
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?

Down came a jubuck to drink at billabong,
Jumped on the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
She sang as she stuffed that jumbuck in her bag
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?

Matilda-Walzer, Matilda-Walzer
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?
She sang as she stuffed that jumbuck in her bag
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?

Mounted the occupant on his thoroughbred,
The soldiers went up, one, two, three,
With that funny jumbo you have in your pocket?
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?

Matilda-Walzer, Matilda-Walzer
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?
With that funny jumbo you have in your pocket?
Come to the waltz Matilda, you naughty with me

Climbed the swagman and jumped the billabong,
You'll never take me alive he said
And your ghost can be heard walking by that billabong
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?

Matilda-Walzer, Matilda-Walzer
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?
Your ghost can be heard walking by that billabong
You come dance the Matilda waltz with me.

Matilda-Walzer, Matilda-Walzer
Would you like to dance the Matilda waltz with me?
Your ghost can be heard walking by that billabong
You come dance the Matilda waltz with me.

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Why is Waltzing Matilda the unofficial national anthem? ›

"Waltzing Matilda" is a song developed in the Australian style of poetry and folk music called a bush ballad. It has been described as the country's "unofficial national anthem". The title was Australian slang for travelling on foot (waltzing) with one's belongings in a "matilda" (swag) slung over one's back.

Was Waltzing Matilda ever the Australian national anthem? ›

(“Banjo”) Paterson, “Waltzing Matilda,” is the unofficial national anthem of Australia known the world over. Paterson's “Waltzing Matilda” became Australia's best-known song—part folk hymn and part national anthem.

What is the message behind Waltzing Matilda? ›

Banjo Paterson wrote the lyrics to Waltzing Matilda, and Christina Macpherson composed the music. Banjo Paterson's original lyrics painted a grim picture of the poverty, deprivation, and exploitation of Australian itinerant workers during the economic depression of the 1890s.

What is Australia's unofficial national anthem? ›

Despite it's status as the official national anthem, Waltzing Matilda (1895), a more uplifting tune with lyrics by Banjo Paterson telling the story of a criminal stealing a sheep, is still widely regarded as Australia's 'unofficial' national anthem.

What is the national anthem controversy? ›

Most controversies centering on “The Star-Spangled Banner” in recent years have resulted from criticisms of its author's role as a slaveholder, references to slaves in the third stanza, and from the actions of individuals who sat or took a knee during the rendition of the national anthem in silent protest against ...

What is the most difficult national anthem to sing? ›

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was originally a poem of Francis Scott Key's called "Defense of Fort McHenry." However, its melody was borrowed from a rowdy and sexually explicit British drinking song. It is also widely regarded as one of the most difficult national anthems to sing.

What does Matilda mean in Australia? ›

'Matilda is an old Teutonic female name meaning 'mighty battle maid'. This may have informed the use of 'Matilda' as a slang term to mean a de facto wife who accompanied a wanderer. In the Australian bush a man's swag was regarded as a sleeping partner, hence his 'Matilda'.

Is Waltzing Matilda an anti war song? ›

This iconic anti-war ballad was created by Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle, as an oblique response to the Vietnam War. Waltzing Matilda has inspired numerous other songs.

What is a Jumbuck in Australia? ›

Jumbuck is an Australian word for a 'sheep'. It is best known from Banjo Paterson's use of it in Waltzing Matilda.

What is a Billabong in Australia? ›

Billabong is a term that derives from the language of the Wiradjuri people in south western New South Wales, and describes a pond or pool of water that is left behind when a river alters course or after floodwaters recede3.

What is the oldest known anthem? ›

Oldest national anthem

The Wilhelmus was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1932, but it was written between 1569 and 1572. This makes it the oldest national anthem in the world.

Who sang the national anthem horribly? ›

In the wake of Gray's performance, Fergie's now-infamous rendition has gone viral once again, with one Twitter user writing, 'NO ONE will ever sing the National Anthem worse than Fergie,' and another stating, 'Conan Gray's rendition of the National Anthem was pretty bad BUT no one can be worst than Fergie.

When did Waltzing Matilda happen? ›

'Waltzing Matilda', a poem by Banjo Paterson, was first recorded 30 years after it was written in 1895. The melody of the song is attributed to Christina Macpherson, whose family owned the property Dagworth Station near Winton in Queensland, where Paterson was staying when he composed the poem.

What country has the weirdest national anthem? ›

Spain's national anthem, the “Royal March,” is one of very few national anthems with no words at all. It was originally a military marching tune played on trumpets or fifes, and though there have historically been lyrics adopted and changed, since 1970 the anthem has been completely wordless.

Why is kneeling for the national anthem disrespectful? ›

I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy." Some regard kneeling as disrespectful to those who have died or been wounded in service of the United States, such as police officers or military veterans.

Why can't you take a picture of The Star-Spangled Banner? ›

The flag's fibers absorb the energy from light, which causes harmful chemical reactions and deterioration.

What is the hidden meaning for born in the USA? ›

Maybe the meaning of "Born in the U.S.A." is the distance between the grim verses and the joyous chorus. It's the space between frustrating facts and fierce pride — the demand to push American reality a bit closer to our ideals.

Which is the most beautiful national anthem in the world? ›

8 Best National Anthems of the World
  • 11. The Star Spangled Banner (USA) Orlando Philharminic Orchestra.
  • 22. La Marseillaise (FRANCE) Orlando Philharminic Orchestra.
  • 33. Independence March (TURKEY) ...
  • 44. Oh-Canada! ( ...
  • 55. Hatikvoh (ISRAEL) ...
  • 66. Patriotic Song (RUSSIA) ...
  • 77. Marcha Real (SPAIN) ...
  • 88. National Anthem (CHINA)

What is the catchiest national anthem? ›

After the US's The Star-Spangled Banner, La Marseillaise is probably the most instantly recognised national anthem in the world. It is certainly one of the most rousing.

What do you call a female Australian? ›

2. sheila – woman or female.

What is Australian slang for woman? ›

This week we shine a spotlight on a quintessential piece of Aussie slang, a word famous the world over: sheila. A sheila is a woman. In use since the 1830s, sheila has its origin in a generic use of the common Irish girl's name.

What do you call an Australian lady? ›

Aussie Slang Words For Women:

Sheila. Chick. Woman. Lady. Bird.

What singer is known for his anti war songs? ›

Pete Seeger, “Bring 'em Home” (1966). Seeger, who died last year at the age of ninety-four, was one of the all-time greats in folk music. He opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War from the start, making his sentiment abundantly clear: “bring 'em home, bring 'em home.”

What Australian song is about WW1? ›

Of all the patriotic songs of WW1, Australia Will Be There is probably the one best known to Australians. It became the marching song of the Australian Expeditionary Forces and was used to rally the troops as they marched away from home. Australia Will Be There was written in 1915 by Walter Skipper Francis.

What does bum nuts mean in Australia? ›

In our 2020 annual appeal for contributions to the Australian National Dictionary, several people shared the word bum nut for 'egg' as a term they thought peculiar to their family. Bum nut's origin does not need much explanation—it's a humorous re-imagining of an egg as a roundish (nutlike) product of a hen's rear end.

What do Aussies call Cowboys? ›

In Australia a stockman (plural stockmen) is a person who looks after the livestock on a large property known as a station, which is owned by a grazier or a grazing company, traditionally on horseback. In this sense it has a similar meaning to "cowboy".

What is a dinky in Australia? ›

dinky1. --verb (t) (dinkied; dinkying) 1. to convey as a second person on a horse, bicycle, or motorcycle. --noun 2. a ride obtained from being dinkied.

Why do Australians call it Barbie? ›

“Barbie” is a short form of barbeque. In Australian English, “-ie” is also added to lots of abbreviated words. The word “selfie” is a good example of this; it was coined by an Australian man in 2002! How to use it: We're having a barbie tomorrow – do you want to come?

What is a thong in Australia? ›

Thongs. This one really baffles visitors, especially those from the United States. In the USA a thong is a piece of underwear. In Australia, it's what they call flip-flops. Sometimes they also call them "double-pluggers".

What two letter word do Australians use to say thanks? ›

And finally, ta, this is a fancy way of saying thank you. My auntie says ta all the time so I guess it's more of an older generation thing... Sorry Auntie Tan, but it's very common to hear ta in the streets. And that's it...

What is the oldest country in the world? ›

Here are the countries World Population Review lists as the oldest in the world by date of earliest known organized government:
  • Iran - 3200 BCE.
  • Egypt - 3100 BCE.
  • Vietnam - 2879 BCE.
  • Armenia - 2492 BCE.
  • North Korea - 2333 BCE.
  • China - 2070 BCE.
  • India - 2000 BCE.
  • Georgia - 1300 BCE.
Jan 18, 2023

What is the only national anthem without words? ›

But where did the anthem come from, and why are there no words? Spain's national anthem, the 'Marcha Real', is one of the few patriotic songs with no lyrics at all. The Royal March is in the no-text club with just three other countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and San Marino.

What is the shortest anthem in the world? ›

The Japanese anthem with only 4 lines is the shortest.

Who sang the best Star Spangled Banner ever? ›

1. Whitney Houston. As far as national anthem performances go, few can top this one by Whitney from the Super Bowl in 1991.

Who refused to stand for the national anthem? ›

Two decades before NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee during "The Star-Spangled Banner," it was former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf whose career and life dramatically changed after he refused to stand for the national anthem.

Who refused to sing the national anthem? ›

World Cup: Iran's national players refuse to sing the national anthem In Iran, a human rights protest movement has swept the country and authorities have cracked down on demonstrators.

Is Waltzing Matilda about a kangaroo? ›

'Banjo' Paterson poem 'Waltzing Matilda' which reads "Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?". A musical version of the piece by Christina Macpherson is actually featured in the film. This picture about a boxing Australian kangaroo was not actually an Australian movie but was an entirely American production.

What is America's unofficial national anthem? ›

America the Beautiful: America's Unofficial National Anthem | Spotlight | Wellesley College.

What is America's unofficial national anthem who was the song written by? ›

“God Bless America”

Another suggested replacement for “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been Irving Berlin's “God Bless America,” written in 1918, but not published (and revised) until 1938.

Why doesn't Wayne Rooney sing the national anthem? ›

Wayne Rooney

It was claimed it was because he didn't know the words. The Football Association has always said that whether a player wants to sing along is a personal choice. Wayne has played more than 100 games for England and in that time seems to have picked up the words.

Why did Australia change its national anthem? ›

Australia Changes National Anthem To Honor Its Indigenous History Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a change in the wording to the country's national anthem. It's in an attempt to recognize its indigenous history.

What is the oldest national anthem still in use? ›

The Wilhelmus was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1932, but it was written between 1569 and 1572. This makes it the oldest national anthem in the world.

Is there a country without an anthem? ›

Austria, the Country without a National Anthem.

What is the coolest national anthem? ›

The best national anthems
  • Russia. ...
  • Switzerland. ...
  • Japan. ...
  • USA. ...
  • Germany. ...
  • France. A classic tune - with all the force of a Zinadine Zidane head-butt. ...
  • Italy. “You could imagine Rossini writing that,” says David of the Italian national anthem. ...
  • Wales. Land of my Fathers, David says, “is the kind of tune that makes me wish I was Welsh.
Jun 14, 2021

What celebrity messed up the national anthem? ›

Canadian jazz singer Alexis Normand's mind went completely blank as she fumbled words left and right to the Anthem that she ended up humming the remainder of the song. Thankfully the crowd was polite enough to bail her out.

What singer butchered the national anthem? ›

Singer Eric Burton flubs lyrics to 'The Star-Spangled Banner' before Game 1 of World Series. HOUSTON (– Grammy-nominated singer Eric Burton lost track of the lyrics during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Friday night's World Series opener between Houston and Philadelphia.

What is the most liked national anthem? ›

After the US's The Star-Spangled Banner, La Marseillaise is probably the most instantly recognised national anthem in the world. It is certainly one of the most rousing.

Why did Rooney wear a headband? ›

The ExoShield HeadGuard provides protection for players with, or concerned about, injuries. The panel designs help spread impacts across the head, with extra protection covering the temples and back of the skull.

Why is Australia so different from the rest of the world? ›

Australia is globally famous for its natural wonders, wide-open spaces, beaches, deserts, "The Bush", and "The Outback". Australia is one of the world's most highly urbanised countries; it's well known for its attractive mega cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.

Why did Australia get rid of the White Australia policy? ›

With insufficient numbers relocating from the UK, Calwell made the controversial decision to circumvent the British bias of the White Australia policy and allow the migration of displaced persons from Europe.

When did Australia apologize? ›

On 13 February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to ​Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly to the Stolen Generations whose lives had been blighted by past government policies of forced child removal and assimilation.


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