Our Proposal: Recognition in Anthem Project

The principal aim of the Recognition in Anthem Project (RAP) is to achieve recognition of Australian values and our First Peoples in the Australian National Anthem.

The change proposed for one of our most important national symbols is no substitute for practical policies and structures designed to make real and lasting differences to the lives of our indigenous citizens. Rather, the change is advanced in support of such policies and structures and aims to work alongside them.

The hurt caused by the first verse of the Anthem in its present form is this: The words “For we are young and free” with reference to “Australians all” excludes those Australians whose ongoing culture and connection with our land is not young at all, but ancient. This is reinforced by the complete absence of any reference to our First Australians in the Anthem. Their occupation of the Australian continent and adjacent islands for more than 60,000 years is ignored. The omission is compounded by the express reference in the present second verse to ‘For those who’ve come across the seas.

Further, the words  “For we are young and free” were first written in 1878 in the colonial era. As Sir William Deane, Governor General of Australia pointed out in an address in Melbourne in 1997: “The cultures and traditions of the original inhabitants of our continent stretch back into the Dreamtime of 60,000 years ago. When the first Europeans arrived in 1788 to establish a militarily run penal settlement, they made little sustained effort to understand the nature or the content of those cultures and traditions, or the strength of the bonds between the Indigenous peoples and their land or territory. Nor was there any real understanding of the extent to which the Indigenous belief in the supernatural enriched the lives of the Aborigines, provided continuity with the past while explaining the present, identified and regulated relationships, provided the context and content of aspirations and regulated almost all aspects of life and conduct.”

This level of ignorance persisted in the life of the colonies.  Consequently, our First Peoples and their cultures and traditions were simply ignored in ‘Advance Australia Fair’ of 1878. Against the background of its colonial history, the words of the Australian National Anthem  linger to symbolise exclusion of our First People – and literally continue to have this effect.

RAP presents an example of some fresh new lyrics called ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’.  See below for the full new song. At the heart of this new piece are lyrics composed to reflect our vitality and resilience; and embody the core Australian values of Freedom supported by the rule of law; Unity in Diversity; Mateship; a Fair Go; and Respect for our First Peoples. 

The Hon R J L Hawke AC, former Prime Minister of Australia, has said of these lyrics: "While I am not in a position to be an advocate for any particular new lyrics, or act as a judge between different possible versions, the words put forward by the Recognition in Anthem Project, "Beneath the Southern Cross", in my opinion capture the spirit of our great country."

Throughout the three verses, this proposal for a new Anthem celebrates our Country; our people; and our values. Why change? click HERE.

At the same time some of the best of the old song has been retained. The historical roots of the existing Anthem are referenced in the refrains and by the music ‘Advance Australia Fair’, and in the beautiful first verse line referring to our country as being 'Of beauty rich and rare'.

A change to the music is not considered to be a viable option based on the inordinate cost involved in reversing the outcome of the 1977 plebiscite which settled the tune, as outlined below. More on cost click HERE At the same time, the traditional music is much loved by many. Verses 1 and 2 may be sung without Verse 3, if there are practical time constraints.

The lyrics of 'Beneath the Southern Cross' are presented as an example of what can be achieved if we turn our minds to it. Other lyrics may be preferred. For example, a ‘Minimalist Change’ model, 'Advance Australia Fair II' may be considered. More on a Minimalist Change model click HERE.

The important thing is to start a national conversation towards achieving the objects of Recognition in Anthem.

We call upon the good will of all Australians to support the Recognition in Anthem Project. 

RAP is a not-for-profit organisation. In the event of the new song being accepted as the National Anthem, copyright in the piece will be gifted to the Nation. 


"Australians all let us embrace

The spirit of our land"


Our Logo - Australians Walk Together

This magnificent contemporary scene from the Indigenous light installation Songlines produced for Vivid Sydney 2016 created by Indigenous artists is a powerful image of what Australians can achieve when they "walk together" – something in which we can truly rejoice.

More on the Logo click HERE.


'Beneath the Southern Cross

Here is 'Beneath the Southern Cross', a Patriotic Song to the tune of 'Advance Australia Fair'. It is  put forward for consideration as the new Australian National Anthem. Verse Notes on the song click HERE


'Beneath the Southern Cross'

(a Patriotic Song to the tune of Advance Australia Fair)


 Australians all let us embrace

The spirit of our land,

From desert winds at red rock heart,

To shores of sun-drenched sand.

One people of this ancient home

Of beauty rich and rare

Her waters, soil and gifts of life

Breathe freedom we hold dear.

Beneath the Southern Cross we sing, Advance Australia Fair.


For sixty thousand years and more

First peoples of this land

Sustained by Country, Dreamtime told

By word and artist’s hand.

Unite our cultures from afar

In peace with those first here

To walk the dreaming tracks as one

Respect for all grows there.

From every place on Earth we sing, Advance Australia Fair.


In times of drought and flood and fire

When all but hope is gone

True mates bring shoulders to your side

And wattle blooms again.

Tomorrow when this timeless land

Falls to our young for care

May fortune bless beneath her stars,

Our country free and fair.

Beneath the Southern Cross we sing, Advance Australia Fair.


Based on the refrain and music by Peter Dodds McCormick (1878);

New lyrics for the 21st century by Peter Vickery (March 2019) ©



What you have said about the New Lyrics

"While I am not in a position to be an advocate for any particular new lyrics, or act as a judge between different possible versions, the words put forward by the Recognition in Anthem Project, "Beneath the Southern Cross", in my opinion capture the spirit of our great country." The Hon R J L Hawke AC (Former Prime Minister of Australia)

Magnificent” Mark Leibler AC (Australian Lawyer, National Chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Co‑Chair of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians – to 30 June 2017)

We’ve been waiting for a chance in history to sing and feel included in the Anthem for this country. The current Anthem does not include us. We want to sing the Anthem alongside other Aussies. This piece will do it for us beautifully.” Shane Phillips (Bundjalung; Wonnarua; & Bidjugal; CEO ‘Tribal Warrior’, Redfern. Shane is an outstanding community leader and respected spokesperson for Aboriginal Australians. He is passionate about the importance of empowering Aboriginal people and is a dedicated contributor to a range of community organisations)

Beautiful… I found myself emotionally connected to this in many ways It is a truly wonderful piece. I know in my heart that many Indigenous Australians would stand proudly alongside other Australians to sing this. It gives me goose bumps like any unifying national anthem should. ” Dr Chris Sarra (Gurang Gurang) (Professor of Education, Member Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Chairman Stronger Smarter Institute, Commissioner Australian Rugby League Commission, 2010 Queensland's Australian of the Year)

The 3 verses are excellent. A new start to a new era.” Peter Skrznecki OAM (Poet and author. In 1989 Peter received the Order of Cultural Merit from the Polish Government and in 2002 the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his contribution to multicultural literature) 

“I think the proposed new lyrics of our National Anthem are a breath of much needed fresh air; particularly the reference to the emotional connection that joins Australia’s first people and ‘cultures from afar’, which is the true meaning of ‘’mateship’’ to Australians and to the world” Bruce Rowland (Australian composer, Australian Recording Industry Association Award (ARIA) and [AFI] Best Score – ‘The Man from Snowy River’)

"The words are lovely and evocative and moving." Jean Kittson (a celebrated Australian performer, writer and comedian in theatre and print, on radio and television)

The rewrite sounds great. I had goose bumps when I read the last verse”. Sue Bulger (Wiradjuri) (CEO Brungle Tumut Local Aboriginal Land Council, former Shire President, Snowy Valleys Council)

I love it.  I didn’t know what to expect when I opened up the document but it grabbed me from the moment I read it.  I have read it through 3 times now and also read the notes.  I like it more each time that I read it.” (Laina Chan, barrister, Wentworth Chambers, Sydney)

 “Wow!! I am deeply touched to be asked to lend my support and voice to this project. In 2008 and 2011 I stood on the hallowed sporting grounds of Qld's Lang Park and Victoria's MCG and sang because I believe in the power of voices to inspire each other to be our very best. This work speaks to the best of our nation and I am honoured and humbled to be able to share this Recognition in Anthem  Project with Australia.” Don Bemrose (Gungarri Baritone; one of Australia’s leading male opera singers; Don graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Music Performance from the Victorian College of Arts, University of Melbourne)


How did we get the present words?

The words of the song ‘Advance Australia Fair’ have never been set in stone.

At each stage, the words of the song have evolved to reflect changes in the political and social fabric of the country. Here is a summary: 

  • The present NA had its origins in a four verse piece, ‘Advance Australia Fair’ written in 1878 by a Scottish / colonial patriot, Peter Dodds McCormick. It was a product of its time and was strongly pro-British in its lyrics, including such lines as: "Britannia rules the wave";

  • In 1901, Dodds McCormick introduced a new second verse to recognise the new political structure for the country with the federation of the Australian colonies;

  • In 1907, at the behest of a Scottish academic, Professor Stuart Blackie, changes were made to the last lines of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ to re-inforce allegiance to Britain, especially with the lines ”Her sons in fair Australia's land, Still keep a British soul”. This change in lyrics occurred against the backdrop of a naval arms race between Germany and Great Britain which had developed between 1902 - 1910, as the world prepared for war. This was the last change to ‘Advance Australia Fair’ until about 77 years later, in 1984;

  • In 1977 the Fraser government conducted a plebiscite as part of a program to change the National Anthem from ‘God Save the Queen’, which had commenced in the Whitlam years. The question put to Australians was carefully worded. It asked “What tune do you prefer?” More precisely, the following question was put to electors in the plebiscite: “Against the background that ‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’ is the NATIONAL ANTHEM to be played on Regal and Vice Regal occasions, electors may indicate their preferences as to which of the tunes of the songs listed below they would prefer to be played on other occasions.”[emphasis added] Four alternative tunes were put up. The tune ‘Advance Australia Fair’ won easily (polling at 43.29% ahead of Waltzing Matilda at 28.28%, with a turnout exceeding 83%). However, this process settled only the music;

  • The Hawke government then appointed a committee, the ‘National Australia Day Committee’ to settle the words. The Committee sat behind closed doors. It made very significant changes to the words written by Peter Dodds McCormick. The character of the original song was fundamentally changed. The four verses of the original song were cut down to two verses; all references to Britain were deleted; and the lyrics were made ‘gender neutral’ in a number of instances. However, full reference to our contemporary values and any reference to our First Peoples were omitted;

  • In 1984, the Hawke government, in the exercise of executive power under the Constitution, and with no public or parliamentary consultation, put up the two verses of words drawn up by the National Australia Day Committee for proclamation by the Governor-General as the National Anthem. It was proclaimed on 19 April 1984.

More on history of the words click HERE.

Map Towards Implementation

Here is our map towards implementation. It is directly sourced from the history of the Australian National Anthem. 

The history can be traced through its music, which has remained as a constant, and through the evolution of its words, which have developed to accommodate different political and social conditions since they were first written in the colonial era of 1878. 

The history of the Anthem also establishes a precedent and convention as to how the words can now be changed to accommodate the needs of Australia for the 21st century and beyond.

A cost effective 'Mud Map' plan is proposed to introduce the new words. 

The words of the National Anthem can be simply and inexpensively changed following the precedent and convention set by the Fraser and Hawke governments:

· First, the public process of the plebiscite conducted in 1977 settled the tune for the National Anthem as the tune of Advance Australia Fair;

· Second, if the tune of the National Anthem was to be changed, another plebiscite would be required, which would be prohibitively expensive;

· However, no plebiscite would be necessary to merely change the words of the National Anthem.

Following precedent and convention, with modification to include consultation, the following basic and inexpensive steps could be followed using the executive power under section 61 of the Australian Constitution:

· The change of words could be presented by Cabinet directly to the Governor-General for proclamation (as was done in 1984); or

· The change of words could be voted on in Parliament. A vote in Parliament could then be formalised as a proclamation to be made by the Governor-General.  

More on the cost and legalities of the word change click HERE.

More on the proposed 'Mud Map' implementation plan click HERE. 



The main points on Copyright are:

· The original tune and words of Advance Australia Fair written by Peter Dodds McCormick became free of copyright in 1966;

· The Commonwealth owns copyright in its new words of the Australian National Anthem (as re-done by the National Australia Day Council in 1981);

· The Commonwealth allows the Australian National Anthem to be used within the community for non-commercial purposes;

· RAP respects these principles;

· The owner of the copyright in the arrangement and lyrics of the song ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’ is Peter Vickery;

· In the event of the song being adopted as the Australian National Anthem, the copyright owner will gift the song to the Nation.



"Advance Australia Fair"


Conductor Richard Gill AO (below) advised on the musical pattern and scan for the new piece.



Recordings of 'Beneath the Southern Cross'

Recordings of the new song - 'Beneath the Southern Cross' are planned for viewing on this website. Watch this space.


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National Anthem - Aboriginal Dancers - Sydney (2015).jpg