Many of you are sitting at home, preparing to dive into another year’s Eurovision Song Contest whilst surrounded by family, friends, and maybe a libation or three. As you settle into tonight’s roster, you may notice, tucked in between nations like Poland and Cyprus, an unexpected name. A confused murmur ripples around your parygoers…
“Wait, are Australia still in this thing?”
Yes, my friends, they are, and at the rate they’re going, it’s looking like they might be staying in for a while. Here’s a quick primer on how our friends Down Under got here, and how they’re sticking around.
A Koala Eye’s View Of The Contest
The Eurovision Song Contest has been viewed in Australia since 1983. To put that in perspective, only five of this year’s Finalists (Russia’s Sergey Lazarev, Spain’s Barei, Malta’s Ira Losco, and Nika Kocharov and Dima Oganesian from the Young Georgian Lolitaz) were alive to even see that first Aussie broadcast. They’ve been showing the Song Contest longer than twenty-four currently-competing nations, including Iceland and almost the entire Eastern Bloc. Australian viewers were watching Carola as she grew from a little ‘Främling‘ to an ‘Invincible‘ Schlager Queen. They were there for Céline Dion, Ireland’s three-peat, Lordi, and ‘Euphoria‘.
Over the years, the land of kookaburras and drop bears have given us some incredibly memorable singers, including Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Logan, and Gina G. Australians have been members in The New Seekers, the Shadows, Texas Lightning, and Genealogy. To say that Australians don’t have roots in the contest is, simply put, factually incorrect.
Dipping A Toe Into The Water…
Before Australia’s debut in 2015, they were represented non-competitively in the two years previous. In Malmö, a special video, ‘Greetings from Australia‘ was sent from SBS. Hosted by Julia Zemiro, this look at the country’s love of the Contest, with surfing Loreen, farmers in golden shoes, and schoolkids in Jedwardian quiffs.
The party rolled on the next year as Jessica Mauboy took to the stage as the second Semifinal interval act. After magically transporting Australia into Europe and watching the stage in Copenhagen be invaded by kangaroos, koalas, and all sorts of colorful characters, Mauboy belted out ‘Sea of Flags‘.
While many of us thought Mauboy’s performance would be the last of the Aussies at Eurovision, it looks like the SBS and the EBU had other plans….
More Shocking Than A Drop Bear
On February 10th, 2015, it was suddenly announced that Australia would be taking part at Eurovision in Vienna, as a special guest marking the Contest’s 60th running. If they won, they would have the chance to defend their title. If not, their record would stand as “one-and-done”.
Despite a fantastic performance and maximum scores from both host nation Austria and eventual winners Sweden, Guy Sebastian’s ‘Tonight Again‘ only made it to 5th place overall, so it was to be assumed that 2016 would be bereft of an entrant from Down Under.
However, on November 17th, 2015 (right as Bella Paige was preparing to be Australia’s debut entrant at Junior Eurovision), it was announced that due to the country’s enthusiasm and high level of artistry, as well as the evolution of Eurovision as a global brand, SBS would be invited to send a participant to Stockholm. This time, however, they would have to run the gauntlet of the Semi Finals in order to make it to the Saturday night (or, if you’re in Australia, Sunday morning) show.
Following much speculation amongst the fan community, ‘X-Factor’ champion Dami Im was coronated at Sydney Opera House, in an announcement ceremony on March 3rd that tied into a concert by Conchita Wurst. Her song, ‘Sound of Silence‘ was revealed on March 11th. Since then, and especially since qualifying from her Semi Final on Thursday, the powerhouse performer has been climbing up the odds tables, settling in second place behind Russia in the day or so before the Grand Final.
Just as it’s difficult to predict the results of a Eurovision Final, it’s hard to say what will happen with Australia’s participation in the future. However, when the OGAE International President’s Meeting convened in Stockholm on Friday, an Australian chapter was unanimously approved – so a huge welcome to OGAE Australia is in order.
The EBU, the voting public, and fan community has welcomed Australia. It has made it mark through brilliant entries and sleepless nights watching the event, and deserve to have their flag shown in the Parade of Nations on Saturday night.