Investigation 3

How was the spirit of Federation captured in South Australia?

The Song of Australia’ had been frequently used as an unofficial national anthem at federal gatherings since 1861. It was also sung at many of the celebrations for Federation that were held in South Australia. The song was created for a competition by the Gawler Institute in 1859 to celebrate its second anniversary. The lyrics were written by English-born poet, Caroline Carleton, who settled in South Australia in 1839. German-born composer, Carl Linger, who settled in South Australia some 10 years later, put Carleton’s words to music. Then Premier of South Australia, Charles Cameron Kingston, was so impressed by the song that he requested all public school teachers teach it to their students.

Your Task

Examine why ‘The Song of Australia’ captured the spirit of Federation and South Australia.


  1. As a class, read ‘The Song of Australia’. Use a dictionary to find the meaning of any words you do not know.
  2. Discuss the following questions.
    • Why might ‘The Song of Australia’ have been sung at federal gatherings and at celebrations for Federation?
    • Which aspects of the song refer to Australia in general and South Australia specifically?
    • Which qualities of the people or nation does the song promote?
    • Why might Carleton have referred to Australia as the ‘fairest of Britain’s daughters’?
    • Do the words of ‘The Song of Australia’ reflect a modern Australia? Would you recommend the song to be sung at a State or national celebration today?
  3. Work in pairs to visually represent a verse of the song. Different pairs could take responsibility for different verses. You may want to present your work as a piece of art, a performance or as a digital presentation.
  4. Create a classroom display of ‘The Song of Australia’.