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  • Writer's pictureDale Roberts

Australia's history with the Eurovision Song Contest

On the 23rd of April 1983, the 28th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Munich, Germany.

This is a significant year for us here in Australia, as it was the first year that Eurovision was televised by our broadcaster SBS.

Although it was not broadcast live on this date, we wanted to acknowledge the anniversary of SBS televising the event with a look back a the full historic timeline of Australia and the Eurovision Song Contest.

1950 - ABC joins the EBU

The Australian Broadcasting Corporate (ABC) are founding Associate Members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

1957 - First national final competitor

Lorrae Desmond became the first Australian to attempt to make Eurovision when she competed in the UK national final, the Festival of Popular British Songs. Although we have no record of the song she performed, it is a significant event by a significant actress and singer.

Lorrae had a long entertainment career in Australia. She was the first female Gold Logie winner for hosting her own variety program in 1961, 'The Lorrae Desmond Show', but slightly younger viewers know her best for the role of Shirley Gilroy on 'A Country Practice'.

1962 - We *almost* get our first Eurovision artist

Australian artist, and ARIA Hall of Famer, Frank Ifield almost made it to Eurovision when he competed in the UK national final 'A Song for Europe' in 1962. His song 'Alone Too Long' finished runner-up to Ronnie Carroll.

1972 - The first Australians perform at Eurovision

Australia finally made the Eurovision stage in 1972 when Peter Doyle and Marty Kristian competed as part of The New Seekers with their song 'Beg, Steal or Borrow'. The entry was written by another Aussie, Tony Cole, and would finish runner-up on the night.

1974 - Olivia Newton-John competes for the UK

On the recommendation of her friend and touring partner Cliff Richard, Olivia Newton-John was chosen to represent the UK in 1974. Although raised in Australia, Olivia was born in the UK and was making her career there when the BBC called. A song selection competition was held where 'Long Live Love' was chosen (even though she preferred the entry 'Angel Eyes').

She finished 4th on the night behind a little known band called ABBA.

1975 - John Farrar competes with The Shadows

The Shadows competed at Eurovision 1975 with 'Let Me Be the One' and among the band members was Aussie John Farrar. Interestingly, John Farrar worked with Olivia Newton-John writing and produced some of her biggest hits. They finished runner-up on the night to the Dutch entry Tech-In with 'Ding-a-dong'.

1979 - SBS join the EBU

In 1978 the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) was founded to serve the growing migrant community Australia with multilingual programming. In 1979 SBS joined the EBU as Associate Members.

1980 - Australian-born Johnny Logan wins Eurovision

Although Johnny Logan isn't technically Australian, he was born in Frankston, Victoria and lived there until he was three years old. He won the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with his song 'What's Another Year'.

His parents returned to Australia in their retirement and are both buried on the Gold Coast. His siblings live there as well and his three adult songs have dual Irish/Australian citizenship.

1983 - SBS broadcast Eurovision

In his opening welcome of the 1983 Contest, BBC commentator spoke these words "Good evening to our viewers by satellite in Australia" heralding the start of over 40 years of SBS broadcasting Eurovision. The contractual arrangement was captured in the SBS Annual Report of 1982-1983.

1987 and 1992 - "Aussie" Johnny Logan wins again and again

Australian-born Johnny Logan became the first (and currently only) artist to win Eurovision twice.

When he won as a songwriter again in 1992 with Linda Martin's 'Why Me' he would acknowledge his parents living on the Gold Coast by saying, "To my mother and father who are going to see this in Australia on Monday, I love you."

1996 - Australia's Gina G competes at Eurovision for the UK

Brisbane-born Gina G made quite a splash when she competed for the UK at Eurovision in 1996. After winning the British national final with 'Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit', she went to Oslo one of the favourites, ultimately finishing 8th.

However, the song had huge commercial success, it went no.1 in the UK, no.5 in Australia and received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording.

2001 - Dedicated Australian broadcast with Effie Stephanidis

Following almost two decades of commentary from BBC's Terry Wogan, SBS when for the first dedicated Australia broadcast. The event was hosted in front of a studio audience by ‘Effie Stephanidis’, the character played by comedian Mary Coustas, who came to fame on the Australian sitcom ‘Acropolis Now’.

Unfortunately it wasn't well received and there was some controversy, and the SBS returned to Sir Terry Wogan’s BBC commentary for 2002.

2003 - Des Mangan steps in for Australian commentary

In 2003 and 2004 SBS again attempted an Australian host in Des Mangan. Mangan was already an SBS presenter and the host of the SBS’s ‘Cult Movie’ show. He was even a guest on the BBC’s ESC2004 preview show, which was hosted by Lorraine Kelly and Paddy O’Connell, with special guests Christer Bjorkman and 1992 winner Linda Martin.

Although Mangan received good reviews, Australians still weren’t quite ready to part with Sir Terry Wogan. SBS returned to the BBC Eurovision commentary for 2005 until Wogan’s retirement in 2008.

2006 - Jane Comerford competes for Germany

Newcastle's Jane Comerford competed for Germany as part of the band Texas Lightning. After winning their national final by beating Eurovision royalty Vicky Leandros (1972 Eurovision winner) as well as Thomas Anders (from Modern Talking) they went to Athens with their entry 'No No Never' finishing 14th on the night.

2008 - Julia Zemiro first appears

Wogan’s retirement presented the opportunity for SBS to reset and think about the direction of the Eurovision Song Contest Broadcast in Australia. SBS ‘Rockwiz’ host and long-time Eurovision fan Julia Zemiro was the logical choice. We first got to see Julia Zemiro when she introduced us to the 2008 Contest before the BBC broadcast.

Boasting excellent Eurovision knowledge, Zamiro had even performed in multiple Eurovision based stage productions, including ‘Eurovision: The Musical’ in 2003, ‘Euromax 7: The Musical’ in 2004 and ‘Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision’ in 2006. Read more about Julia Zemiro's Eurovision journey.

2009 - Australia's first full commentary team of Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro

In 2009, SBS sent Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang to Moscow to cover Eurovision on the ground for Australia for the first time.

They would go on to be beloved hosts and increase viewership of the primetime broadcast from around 100,000 to 600,000 in a matter of a few years.

2012 - The Road to Eurovision

With the success of the Contest, SBS put together the show 'The Road to Eurovision' hosted by Julia Zemiro. The show saw Julia travelled from 2011 host city Düsseldorf to Baku, Azerbaijan where she met and chatted to Eurovision stars past and present on the way.

2013 - Australia appears during the broadcast

During the 2013 Contest, the Swedish hosts generously allowed a small video to be shown showing Australia's love of Eurovision. This also marked 30 years of Australia broadcasted Eurovision.

2014 - Down Under live interval performance with Jessica Mauboy

In a major coup for Australia, there was a special 'Down Under' live interval act during the second semi-final in Copenhagen.

After a comedic stretch with mock AFL players and various dancing animals, Jessica Mauboy came on stage to perform the anthemic song 'Sea of Flags' written for the occasion.

2015 - Australia join the Eurovision family. Officially!

In March of 2015, Eurovision fans across the world were shocked to see Australia would officially compete at Eurovision. The one-off (lol) appearance was to mark the 60th anniversary of the Contest and reward Australia for the dedication

2015 - Our first entry makes the Top 5!

Guy Sebastian was Australia's first ever Eurovision entry with the song 'Tonight Again'. He placed in an incredible 5th place and using today's split voting he finished 4th in the juries and 6th in the televote.

2015 - Mary-Jean O’Doherty competed for Armenia

The group Genealogy who represented Armenia in 2015 consisted of six members with five from each different continent of the Armenian diaspora. In the group was American-Australian Mary-Jean O’Doherty and her and the group finished 16th with ‘Face the Shadow’.

2015 - Australia make their Junior Eurovision debut

Bella Paige was Australia's debut artist at Junior Eurovision with the Delta Goodrem penned 'My Girls' placing 8th behind Malta's Destiny Chukunyere.

2016 - Dami almost takes the Eurovision crown

Australia was invited back to the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden. Dami Im competed with 'Sound of Silence' and after an incredible live performance finished runner-up by just 23 points after winning the jury vote.

Australia also competed at Junior Eurovision again, with Alexa Curtis placing 5th with 'We Are'.

2017 - Isaiah gets us another Top 10 result

Aged just 17, Isaiah Firebrace finished a very impressive 9th place with his song 'Don't Come Easy'. This saw Australia finish Top 10 three times in a row, a very impressive start.

Meanwhile, at Junior Eurovision Isabella Clarke with 'Speak Up' would see our first podium at the Contest, finishing 3rd. Additionally, the ABC took over the reins of broadcasting Junior Eurovision on their channel ABC ME.

2017 - Anja Nissen competes for Denmark

Anja was a winner of 'The Voice Australia' and following her win she looked for success in Europe. The child of Danish migrants to Australia, she won Dansk Melodi Grand Prix with 'Where I Am' to earn her place in Kyiv. She qualified for the final where she finished 20th place.

2017 - Joel and Myf replace the departing Julia and Sam

After eight Contests, Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang decided to hang up the microphone and pass the baton on to Joel Creasey and Myf Warhust. The pair had some tough technical issues in their first show but recovered well and are still our commentators today. Liverpool will be their sixth Contest together.

2018 - Jessica Mauboy makes a competitive return

After singing the interval act in 2014, Jessica Mauboy was chosen to represent Australia at the 2018 Contest in Lisbon. The anthemic song 'We Got Love' sailed through the semi-finals before finishing 20th in the Grand Final.

At Junior Eurovision, Jael Wena saw Australia make the Top 3 in back-to-back years with 'Champion' finishing in 3rd place.

2019 - 'Eurovision - Australia Decides' is born

Australia took the next big step as a Eurovision nation by holding a national final. 'Eurovision - Australia Decides' was held on the Gold Coast in February with Kate Miller-Heidke beating out a strong field including Electric Fields, Sheppard, Courtney Act and Alfie Arcuri.

2019 - Kate wows the world with her staging

After winning Australia Decides, Kate Miller-Heidke went to Tel Aviv and delivered one of the best live staging performances Eurovision has ever seen. Kate won her semi-final and took out the prestigious Marcel Bezençon Artistic Award. In the Grand FInal, despite finishing 6th with the juries and 7th with the public, she finished in 9th place overall. Another Top 10 for Australia, our fourth in five years.

At Junior Eurovision, Jordan Anthony finished 8th with his song 'We Will Rise'. It Australia's fifth Top 10 result in a row.

2020 - Australia Decides 2020 and Eurovision is cancelled

Another successful Australia Decides was held on the Gold Coast with Montaigne taking out the title, ahead of Casey Donovan and Vanessa Amorosi, with her song 'Don't Break Me'.

Unfortunately, Eurovision was cancelled that year because of the pandemic.

2020 - Eurovision Big Night In

To help Eurovision fans cope with the Contest, SBS put on the show 'Eurovision Big Night In' hosted by Myf and Joel. The show counted down Australia's favourite entries that year including artists sending messages and sharing lockdown slang.

2021 - Montaigne performs remotely

Because of complications with travel and the pandemic, Australia had to compete remotely for the Eurovision 2021 Contest. Montaigne's song 'Technicolour' finished 14th in the semi-final.

2022 - Australia Decides makes a return

After a break in 2021, Australia Decides returned with 11 acts competing on the Gold Coast. Sheldon Riley won a tight battle with Voyager and Jaguar Jonze to earn his spot in Turin for Eurovision.

2022 - Sheldon takes us back to Saturday night

In Turin, Sheldon did us proud by finishing 2nd in his semi-final and taking us back to the Grand Final for the first time since 2019. He finished a very credible 15th on the night, including 9th in the jury.

2022 - A surprising Swiss-Australian connection

Before the 2022 Contest, the artist from Switzerland, Marius Bear, revealed that he had an Australian passport through he and his family living here for some time. Marius would make the Grand Final in Turin with his song 'Boys Do Cry' finishing

2023 - Voyager take us back to the Top 10

Following their public vote win at Australia Decides in 2022, SBS decided to send the band to Eurovision 2023 with the song 'Promise'. This is the first time Australia has sent a group and they did us incredibly proud in Liverpool. They won the public vote only semi-final before finishing 9th in the Grand Final.

2023 - Andrew Lambrou competed for Cyprus

Following Andrew Lambrou's performance at Australia Decides 2022, he caught the eye of Europe with the team in Cyprus snapping him up for Eurovision 2023. Andrew, who has Greek-Cypriot heritage, represented the nation with 'Break a Broken Heart'. He finished in an impressive 12th place in the Grand Final.

2024 - Electric Fields rom Australia Decides to Eurovision

Taking a similar approach to 2023, SBS chose popular Australia Decides runner-up act Electric Fields. They will be compete with 'One Milkali (One Blood)' which features Indigenous language from Australia for the first time on the Eurovision stage.

2024 - Another Aussie for Cyprus

Sydneysider Silia Kapsis will represent Cyprus at the Contest. The teenager will perform 'Liar' at the Contest in Sweden.

So what will Australia's future bring? With our five-year contract finishing in 2023 and we are now in on a year-by-year invitation.

Australia will always love, support and be part of the Eurovision Song Contest in one way or another. Just try and get rid of us!

For continued updates on all Eurovision Song Contest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram. All the links can be found at:

1 Comment

Oct 02, 2023

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