Why is Australia in Eurovision?
There are a few inevitable things that happen every year in May during Eurovision Week.
We'll see a clip of Verka Serduchka going 'Dancing Lasha Tumbai'.
The term 'it's all just political!' will be tossed about.
And of course the question that every Australian fan expects will be asked....
WHY IS AUSTRALIA IN EUROVISION, IT'S NOT EVEN PART OF EUROPE?!?!
Many have come before us and attempted to answer this rather ‘uncomfortable’ question and here’s our attempt in a five point explanation.
1. It’s not actually a European competition
So yes that’s right, the contest isn’t actually a ‘European’ one. The competition is run by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and to be a member you must be in the European Broadcasting Area which includes much of North Africa and the Middle-East.
Members eligible to compete include Algeria, Jordan, Libya and Tunisia. One African nation has competed in the past - Morocco who participated in 1980 (below) where they finished last and decided never to return.
Lebanon was also due to compete with a selected song in 2005 but was forced out after refusing to commit to telecasting Israel’s performance.
Talking of which Israel isn’t actually part of Europe either and technically Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia are in Eurasia, not continental Europe and they’ve competed since the 2000s.
2. Our cultural ties to Europe
A big reason Australia has been obsessed with the contest is because of our cultural ties to Europe. Australia is a nation of migration, half of our population was born or had a parent born overseas. Many fans in Australia have been introduced to the contest through their migrant parents, family or friends.
There was a great deal of migration to Australia from Europe after the second world war. This large population was served with a new TV/Radio broadcaster in the 1970s to provide content in multiple languages - and that was the ‘Special Broadcasting Service’ or SBS for short.
With Eurovision being such an important European event, SBS started broadcasting the contest to its audience in 1983 using BBC commentary. This is no surprise since ‘God Save the Queen’ was still our national anthem and Queen Elizabeth II is still our official Head of State.
Those close ties to Britain were an important part of our Eurovision history as well.
3. Our history and obsession with the contest
Australians have long had an association with the contest even before we stepped on the stage in 2015. Many Australians have competed in the past, mainly for UK who we share very close ties to since their colonisation of Australia.
UK representatives from Australia included Olivia Newton-John in 1974 (above), Peter Doyle and Marty Kristian of the 'New Seekers' in 1972 and Gina G for UK in 1996 (below).
Australian artists have also represented Germany, Armenia and Denmark.
Additionally a multitude of Australian composers, creative directors and backing artists have also graced the Eurovision stage. Hell... even two-time Eurovision winner Johnny Logan was born in Australia so we can kind of claim him and his wins!
After watching the BBC coverage for over 25 years we sent our own commentary team to Russia in 2009, the only non EBU full member broadcaster to do so.
At this point our obsession exploded with Eurovision album sales and ratings both soaring in Australia.
SBS introduced ‘mock’ voting for their coverage and Eurovision hosts started acknowledging us in the broadcast with a special 'hello' or ‘Good morning’ to fans watching in Australia.
This acknowledgement hit the big time when we were invited to be the interval act at 2014 in Copenhagen (well the Princess of Denmark is an Australian) and that trial run saw us get the special invite to compete in 60th anniversary in 2015.
4. Our record and commitment to Eurovision
We made our debut as a special guest in 2015 doing rather well finishing in 5th place with Aussie household name Guy Sebastian.
We bought the album in droves and followed up with an appearance at Junior Eurovision (JESC) where the Delta Goodrem penned track sung by Bella Paige finished 8th.
After that year it would be kind of rude not to be invited back right?
Luckily our Swedish friends did so and Dami Im came agonisingly close to victory (she would have won in the old voting system!). We bought the album in spades again and entered JESC where we finished 5th.
In 2017 we were back in the top 10 and finished 3rd at Junior Eurovision. We rocked up to Lisbon in 2018 with Australian fans buying more tickets than almost any other nation and made the final yet again. We also turned up at Junior Eurovision for the fourth year running and came agonisingly close to winning, with Jael coming 3rd by 14 points after winning the jury vote.
In 2019 we introduced a national final, Australia Decides, with Kate Miller-Heidke taking out the title and pulling off one of the most audacious staging concepts in Eurovision history.
Her Top 10 was our third in five years and left us, with Ukraine, as the only countries to have a 100% qualifying record.
The appearance of big names competing, efforts with our performances and our commitment to Junior Eurovision finally sealed a semi-permanent spot in the contest for at least a few more years.
5. The European Broadcasting Union
We can hear some of you rule lovers saying "well this is all well and good but Australia is not a full member of the EBU which is THE qualification criteria of the contest!".
That's true, but it must be noted we are an Associate Member and have been since the inception of the EBU in 1950.
The EBU (Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand pictured above) obviously feels that our unique cultural ties, effort and history with the contest plus our Associate Membership of 70 years is enough to warrant at least a semi-permanent place in the competition.
Ultimately it is a television show run by them (and let's face it they have been a little looser with rules in recent years) and if they believe we have earned our spot, that’s all that matters.
We’re obviously happy with the arrangement and it certainly feels like the other competing nations from Europe and elsewhere are beginning to accept us… slowly…
So in conclusion, there is no 'one answer' to why we are there, but there are a myriad of factors that make a compelling argument why we're staying.
Well... at least for now... just try and get rid of us!