Investigation 2

What anthems and ceremonies marked the official beginning of the Commonwealth of Australia?

In Sydney’s Centennial Park on 1 January 1901, a special ceremony was held for the official inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth and the swearing-in of the first Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun. This marked the official beginning of the new nation.

It was a huge event involving speeches, official ceremonies and a reading of Queen Victoria’s Proclamation of the Commonwealth songs, which included the national anthem at that time, ‘God Save the Queen’, as well as ‘Advance Australia Fair’. More than 7,000 seats had been arranged for dignitaries and invited guests. Space was set aside for a choir of more than 1,000 singers, and special areas were allocated for the hundreds of photographers and reporters who had gathered to document the occasion. Tens of thousands of school children also attended, along with huge crowds of people from all walks of life.

Your Task

Examine the words, symbols and ceremonies that were used to celebrate the new nation of Australia.


  1. As a class, read the lyrics of ‘God Save the Queen’, and the version of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ that was sung on Commonwealth Day. Find the meaning of any words or phrases that you do not understand. Discuss the following questions.
    • What hopes are expressed in ‘God Save the Queen’?
    • What hopes are expressed in ‘Advance Australia Fair’?
    • What words and images are used to describe Australia?
  2. Go to the Australian Screen website and watch the ‘Signing oath of allegiance’, which is a silent film clip of the ceremony that took place at Centennial Park on 1 January 1901. As a class, consider the following questions.
    • What do you think the people are doing?
    • What do the clothes of the people tell you about the people’s roles in this historic event?
    • Who might the people be who are involved in the signing the oath of allegiance?
  3. Write a newsreader’s script to accompany the clip of this historic occasion. The script can be completed individually, with a partner or in a small group. You might like to include the lyrics of ‘God Save the Queen’, Australia’s national anthem until 1984, or those of ‘Advance Australia Fair’, which was also sung at the inauguration.
  4. Perform your script as the film clip ‘Signing oath of allegiance’ is replayed to the class.