Australia and Eurovision: The Story Behind the Outrageous Song Contest

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For over 60 years, the Eurovision song contest has captured the eyes, ears and hearts of viewers worldwide. 

Every year, a host of countries across Europe dig deep into the nation’s talent pool to pluck out a performer with the Eurovision-factor, and sends them off on a journey in search of  song contest success.

The annual event, which traditionally takes place in the last couple of weeks in May sees Eurovision lovers around the world glued to their TVs to take part in the song contest.

Avid viewers of the contest include Australians, who host viewing parties, organising drinking games and celebrate the song contest – which has become so imbedded in Australia’s culture. Some dedicated fans even staying up overnight to catch the live stream straight from Europe. 

As the years went on, Australia’s love for Eurovision grew stronger. The entire country would tune in to watch the wonderful, woeful and wacky performances that would rock the world. 

While it took Europe 30 years to repay the love, Australia’s first true taste of Eurovision came in 2013 as host Julia Zemiro would record a series of messages that featured during the interval acts. The messages celebrated 30 years of Australia’s Eurovision broadcast with SBS – and it was a real celebration indeed, as months later, the Danish Broadcasters hosting the 2014 contest announced that Australian Idol Alumni and pop superstar Jessica Mauboy would preform during an interval at the competition in Denmark. 

Following the incredible success of Mauboy’s performance, Eurovision officials invited Australia to participate in the contest to help celebrate 60 years of Eurovision.

Melbourne University Eurovision lecturer and expert Alison Lewis explains that Australia’s dedication to the contest saw them gain the place in the 2015 contest.

SBS has been broadcasting [Eurovision] for over 30 years,” she said.

Other countries have expressed an interest in taking part, like China, but the EBU has made it clear that they weren’t considering requests from nations that might just be a passing fad.”

Australia embraced the invitation with both hands, sending the first Australian Idol winner and soul success Guy Sebastian with his upbeat, catchy tune ‘Tonight Again’.

The special invitation saw Australia enter straight into the Grand Final. Sebastian’s energetic performance and superb vocals saw him finish in 5th. 

Following on from Sebastian’s success, Australia were invited back to perform in Eurovision once again. 

This time, X-Factor winner Dami Im was chosen to represent Oz in Stockholm, Sweden. Unlike the year before, she would be required to sing in a Semi Final and be voted through to the Grand Final.

2016 was Australia’s most successful Eurovision stint to date. With her ballad, “Sound of Silence”, Dami would place runner-up to Ukraine’s Jamala.

Despite placing second in the contest, Dami would win the jury votes on the night.

Dami Im, who is of Asian decent, was SBS’ third diverse choice of performers. 

The indigenous Jess Mauboy, Malaysian born Guy Sebastian and now Koran-born Dami Im would highlight Australia’s multicultural, diverse and accepting society.

“[SBS] are making sure their contestants fit their charter; which is to promote multiculturalism and multilingualism,” Ms Lewis said.

Thus far, they have made very appropriate choices that project a modern and progressive image of the Australian nation-state as being inclusive and diverse.”

Australia’s popularity at the contest bears this out.”

In 2017, Australia were Europe bound once again, this time heading for the Ukraine.

Sticking with the reality TV theme, X-Factor’s Isaiah Firebrace was chosen to represent Australia in the 2017 contest.

Ms Lewis explains that while this may seem like a cautious move, it’s actually quite a clever and strategic move by SBS.

SBS has been canny in choosing recent X-Factor or Idol winners that Australians already know and love,” she said.

While this might seem like a safe choice, it isn’t a bad strategy because of the popularity of these contests, and because they are a good training ground for coping with big live audiences.”

The 17 year old wowed the Kiev crowd with his song, “Don’t Come Easy” and won a place in the Grand Final, where he finished 9th.

Australia also had a second entry in the competition, with The Voice winner Anja Nissen representing Denmark, in honour of her Danish heritage. She would place 20th in the Grand Final.

While it remains unconfirmed if Australia will attempt success for a 4th time next year, the EBU has already stated that the contest will not be hosted down under.

“If Australia wins, and this was a definite possibility last year, we could not host it,” Ms Lewis said.

She said that time difference and travel expenses were amongst many reasons Australia would not host Eurovision.

Should they go on and win, Australia would have the chance to co-host the contest with a European country.

With Dami Im coming close to victory in 2016, Germany offered to co-host the contest with Australia.

Dami Im celebrated success in the 2016 song contest, finishing runner up.

While Australia is still searching for a first Eurovision victory, there is no doubt their love from afar has been embraced and celebrated by Europe.

In true Aussie spirit, expect Australia to enter and compete again as they search for Eurovision glory.

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