This resource has been generously supported by Optus. Through the Digital Thumbprint program and Kids Helpline @ School, Optus supports digital knowledge and the positive use of technology.


British tea culture, imported with the arrival of the British in Australia in 1788, has been adapted by Australians into something distinct from its roots. One of the key early differences is the use of the ‘billy’, a lightweight metal can used most commonly for boiling water or cooking over a campfire.

To advertise its tea, the Billy Tea Company used on its packet an image of a swagman, or ‘swaggie’, boiling his billy. Early in the twentieth century, Billy Tea’s owner James Inglis purchased the rights to the song Waltzing Matilda. Some of Banjo Paterson’s original words of Waltzing Matilda were changed for an arrangement of the song, which was published in 1905 and was the earliest printed version of the song. Marie Cowan, the wife of Billy Tea’s manager, was credited on the cover as having arranged the music.

  • Have students compare the original lyrics with those published in Marie Cowan's version. Which lines have changed?
  • To what extent has the change been influenced by the Billy Tea Company?

Inglis, with an eye for advertising opportunities, proposed to include a free copy of the newly arranged sheet music of Waltzing Matilda with every packet of tea sold.

  • This is an example of the importance of the medium of music in advertising. Use a data projector or smartboard to explore this YouTube playlist for more examples of music used in advertising from The Sell.

Advertising for tea shows us the ways in which Australians have used the drink and how it has been marketed to them.

  • Have students prepare a short written response that compares and contrasts the advertising campaigns of the Billy Tea Company and Robur Tea.
    • Did the campaigns try to appeal to the same audience?
    • What qualities of the tea did each campaign emphasise?
    • Were these qualities also supposed to be present in the customer?
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