To Americans, Waltzing Matilda is just a silly kids’ song. To Aussies, it’s the unofficial national anthem, something they feel very deep within. Jamie and I love this country and its people so much that we tear up every time we hear one of the many melancholy versions of the song — even the instrumental version used in a current Toyota TV commercial.
On one of our first Aussie trips together we found ourselves in Brisbane, Queensland. The beautiful tropical city hosted an official World’s Fair back in the late 1980s and the site of the fair and many of its buildings have been retained and turned into a large outdoor entertainment complex on the South Bank of the Brisbane River.
One night we took a water taxi across the river to South Bank and rain started pouring down as soon as we arrived. We were both quickly soaked to the skin, so we ducked into one of the venues to take refuge from the weather and discovered that we’d happened upon a free concert performed by the Australian Army Band.
The small arena was almost full. Maybe those in attendance came for the music or maybe they were all there for the same reason we were. I don’t know. The good Aussies in the stands watched respectfully as the band performed a series of “favorite Australian songs”. But something amazing happened when they began playing Waltzing Matilda — everyone in the audience spontaneously began singing along with the band. Jamie and I looked around the crowd and then looked at each other and realized that both of us had teared up seeing the emotion in the crowd.
The version in the video above is from the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It’s sung by beloved Aussie folk singer Slim Dusty and every Aussie in the stadium is singing along, including Greg Norman, Paul Hogan, Elle MacPherson and Kylie Minogue. You can just see how much the song means to them. Jamie and I well remember sitting at home watching the closing ceremonies with tears rolling down our cheeks as Slim Dusty started his song.
Believe it or not, I’m tearing up as I write this. That’s how much I’m effected by the mere sound of Waltzing Matilda. I guess it’s also a good indication of our affection for this hot, dusty, wonderful place.