The Australian symphony from Federation to 1960

McNeil, Rhoderick, The Australian symphony from Federation to 1960, 2014,


The Landing of the Australian Troops in Egypt (1916), a simulated film clip of Australian troops docking in Egypt,  is possibly the first recording of 'Advance Australia fair'.

Sons of Britannia a Federation song

Nicholson, John H. & Benson, S. G., Sons of Britannia a Federation song. [1890-] nla.obj-164926468

In 2001, the National Library held the Music of Federation concert at which this and other patriotic music items written at the turn of the century were performed.

Not sure where to start?

Federation provided the opportunity for composers to express their pride in the new nation of Australia. The National Library of Australia holds a rich collection of music from this era.  It includes marches, patriotic songs, and dance music, with many titles having highly decorative covers.   Much of it has been digitised and is available online. 

Federation Parade walks proud along Sanger St. Corowa, 28th January 2001

McDougall, Wendy, Federation Parade walks proud along Sanger St. Corowa, 28th January 2001, 2001, nla.obj-146228696

Catalogue search tips

Find music in the Library collection using the Catalogue search. Some useful keywords to use include:

  • National songs Australia
  • Patriotic music Australia  
  • Federation Australia music
  • Advance Australia Fair

In the results list, under Limit your search, limit the Format to Music. To find online items, use the Access limit to limit the results to National Library (digitised item)

In our Reference collection

The following material is in the Main Reading Room Reference collection.  No call slip is required.

Oral history

Although there are very few recordings available of people living at Federation, in 2001 the National Library undertook to record the voices of 100 Australians who at the centenary of federation were 100 years of age or older.  These are available in the 100 centenarians, the children of federation oral history project.


Advance Australia fair

McCormick, P. D.,  Advance Australia fair, 190-?, nla.obj-165472465

Peter Dodds McCormick  or 'Amicus'  was the composer of the patriotic song which was later to become the national anthem of Australia.  It was first performed in 1878, and later at the inauguration of the Commonwealth.


The Musica Australis collection, part of the larger Symphony Australia collection, contains musical works from the colonial period, including some dating around Federation.

Federation polka

Ricketts, Thomas A., Federation polka, 1900, nla.obj-174138107 


Trove is a great source for finding music of the Federation period.

There are curated lists such as this one on Australian Patriotic Music - Federation of Australia

The digitised newspapers also provide information on new music composed to celebrate the great event.  The reviews of music include those deemed to be worthy and those felt to be merely mediocre.