Why Australia is in Eurovision

If I had a dollar for every person who has asked ‘Why is Australia in Eurovision? We’re not in Europe!’ I would be able to retire at 19. Yes, they are correct in saying that we aren’t in Europe, however there is more to participation, and specifically our participation in the 2015 contest. If we look back into the 60 years of Eurovision history, we can see that Australia has been involved numerous times, in one form or another. Let’s look back into the Eurovision history books, and see where Australia’s journey began.

Many Australian’s would recognise the name Olivia Newton John, however many do not realise that she once entered Eurovision, singing ‘Long Live Love.’ Although arguably the most recognised Australian, there were a few others, including three time winner Johnny Logan, who grew up in Melbourne. Additionally, Gina G who also represented the UK was from Brisbane, and Jane Comerford from Newcastle was the lead singer for the group Texas Lightning who represented Germany in 2006.

Olivia Newton John was one of our first connections to Eurovision

Olivia Newton John was one of our first connections to Eurovision

From a non-competitive point of view, we have also been represented in the 2014 interval act, with an invitation sent out to Australia to choose a performer to showcase Australia. Jess Mauboy represented us with the song ‘Sea of Flags’ – and if we look at the sea of flags every year in the Eurovision audience, we can see more and more Aussie flags! Even in 2010, an audience member was interviewed briefly during the show, and that audience member was in fact Australian. Additionally, there was a short clip shown at the 2013 Eurovision held in Sweden, with Julia Zemiro our leading lady.

Our Girl Jess strutting her way across the stage, and into our hearts
Our girl Jess strutting her way across the stage, and into our hearts

Not only was Australia mentioned more and more as the years go by, but our own broadcaster SBS have been increasingly extending the Eurovision coverage. When Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang took over the commentary from Terry Wogan, the popularity of the contest grew. The pair brought a fresh new perspective on the contest, which appealed to the viewers, as they continue to commentate each year. SBS have produced a number of Eurovision related shows, with the most recent being the Eurovision quiz show, which was broadcast every day for the week leading up to Eurovision weekend. I was lucky enough to be able to be a part of the audience for 3 out of the 5 filming’s and it was clear to see how excited not only the audience was, but even the participants and producers! I was also lucky enough to be invited to the filming for a short clip that was shown before Jessica Mauboy performed at Eurovision, and got to talk to Julia Zemiro (and single-handedly changed her mind about the French participant for 2014!). The Eurovision fans who could get away from their work or study that Monday morning all shared an incredible experience, and during filming breaks, we discussed all things Eurovision, and it was clear that even at that point, whilst we weren’t participating, our involvement was just as much as the nations who actually compete in Eurovision year to year.

Australia's commentary team, Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang

Australia’s commentary team, Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang

At this point, all signs are positive. We have a strong Eurovision tradition, a love for the contest, and growing popularity. So where and why did SBS decide that Eurovision was something they wanted to compete in, not just watch? Let’s take it back to 2009, where Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang travelled to Moscow to commentate their first Eurovision together. It turns out that from that moment, SBS were increasingly pushing the idea of an Australian participation. This was obviously on the hush hush, as pretty much no one was aware that the idea, or the negotiations were happening.

From there, we can see that our opportunities have been all part of a wider plan to make Australia part of Eurovision. With the successful interval act last year, the EBU saw that Australia can put on a show, but the question for some still comes down to this – we’re not in Europe. Again, correct, but what most people generally do not know about Eurovision is that participation is not done via geography, but rather it is decided by the EBU broadcasting lines, hence countries in North Africa can technically participate, and countries on the far East such as Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia can and do participate. Ok, so we’re not really in those broadcasting lines, but what we are in is a partnership with the EBU. Australia is an associate member of the EBU meaning that we can broadcast popular European television programs.

Maybe we're closer to Europe than people think...

Maybe we’re closer to Europe than people think…

So 2015 is where it all came together. We’re an associate member of the EBU, we have had a long tradition of screening Eurovision, and increased interaction with the contest, and it is the 60th anniversary of the contest, so it is a special, one-off anniversary special. Australia’s rich Eurovision history has ultimately led to this moment, and although people are uncertain whether our participation is the right move, what we do know is that this most certainly wasn’t just chance, but rather, a long process which has finally come to fruition.

With the announcement that Guy Sebastian will be representing us in what will most likely be our final opportunity to participate (this is also up for debate), Australians and Eurovision fans from across the world can be assured that we are not taking this as a joke. Australians are competitive in nature, so with our passion for Eurovision and our competitive mindset, we will be fighting to win Europe’s douze points. Along with the novelty factor of a “non-European” country participating, it wouldn’t be surprising if Australia does extremely well, well enough to win.

Our Guy, Guy!

Our Guy, Guy!

Lastly, what does Australia’s participation mean for Australian fans? Well SBS’s coverage will be bigger than ever. With the opportunity to vote, the broadcast will be live, however we will still receive the Friday, Saturday and Sunday coverage with the usual SBS Eurovision package with Eurovision extras, behind the scenes and so on. This is our chance to get involved in Eurovision. Even if you are not a Eurovision fan, you can appreciate how significant this is for us, and as Guy Sebastian said at the artist reveal, Haters gonna hate, but the fact still remains: Australia is in Eurovision.