Europe

Why is Australia even in the Eurovision Song Contest?

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Why is Australia allowed to participate in a contest that has "Euro" in the name?

The 64th Eurovision Song Contest has begun in Tel Aviv, Israel, where performers from 41 countries are competing in the world's largest television music competition. 

Amid the host of European talent, Australia's Kate Miller-Heidke has already wowed the estimated 200 million viewers, blitzing her way through Wednesday's semi finals to earn herself a spot in the final round.

But, why is Australia competing in a singing competition that has "Euro" in its name?

Kate Miller-Heidke will represent Australia.
Kate Miller-Heidke will represent Australia.
SBS Eurovision

Why is Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest?

The Eurovision Song Content AKA Eurovision started in post-World War Two Europe and has been broadcast annually since 1956.

Throughout its history, it's almost entirely involved countries from the European Broadcasting Union (hence the name).

But for Australia, Eurovision began long before it was first invited to actually compete in the song contest: Aussies have been watching Eurovision for more than 30 years, since SBS first broadcast it in 1983. 

In 2018, the semi-finals and grand final were watched by around three million Australians.

History made 

In 2014, Darwin-born singer Jessica Mauboy made a guest appearance at the Eurovision extravaganza in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Mauboy got the audience singing and dancing with her track Sea of Flags, which touched on Australian stereotypes while living up to the quintessential Eurovision kitsch.

Wildcard entry

But 2015 was when everything changed.

That year, Australia was invited by the European Broadcasting Union to actually take part in the contest as a wildcard entry as a result of SBS pushing to increase Australia's presence at the contest. 

Host broadcaster that year, Austria's state television network ORF, couldn't refuse.

SBS announced ARIA Award-winning singer Guy Sebastian would represent Australia at the 60th anniversary of the contest in Vienna, Austria. 

His performance of Tonight Again marked an important celebration of Australian music, diversity and culture and banned Australia fifth place, with a score of 196 points. 

Silver medal

Despite 2015 being declared a "one off", Australia was invited back in 2016.

That time, South Korean-born Australian singer-songwriter Dami Im was announced as Australia's competitor in Stockholm, Sweden. 

It became the first time Australia fought its way out of the Semi-Finals by gaining enough votes in order to qualify to the Grand Final. 

The year before, Australia was a wildcard entry straight to the Grand Final. 

Dami Im came second, wowing the crowd in Sweden with her song Sound of Silence

More talent in 2017

Singer Isaiah Firebrace, who won the eighth season of the TV reality music competition The X Factor Australia in 2016 was chosen to represent Australia in 2017 in Kiev, Ukraine. 

He performed his song Don't Come Easy and came in at ninth place.

'We Got Love' in 2018

Mauboy came to return her love for Eurovision in 2018 by competing in the contest in Lisbon, Portugal.

Her uplifting pop song We Got Love finished at number 20 on 99 points.

Talent in Tel Aviv

In February, Kate Miller-Heidke won the inaugural Australian final of "Eurovision - Australia Decides" which was held on the Gold Coast.

Kate Miller-Heidke performs Zero Gravity during the 2019 Eurovision - Australia Decides final at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Kate Miller-Heidke performs Zero Gravity during the 2019 Eurovision - Australia Decides final at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.
AAP

She said her song Zero Gravity was inspired by coming out of depression after the birth of her son, Ernie, in 2016.

"It's a personal song ... It feels like the song is rooted in deep emotion for me," Miller-Heidke told SBS News.

She dazzled crowds with the song on Wednesday morning, earning herself a ticket straight to the grand finals, which are due to start at 5am AEST on Sunday.

What happens if she wins? 

Miller-Heidke has now risen to fourth most likely to take home the title in this year's Eurovision betting odds, leaving many believing this might just be Australia's year to shine

The grand final will see a panel of music industry leaders and viewers from all participating countries cast their votes for their favourite of the 26 finalists.

If she wins, Miller-Heidke will be asked to perform Zero Gravity one more time before taking home the iconic Eurovision glass microphone trophy.

The winning country traditionally becomes the host of the next Eurovision Song Contest, as has been done every year since 1981.

However, when Australia was invited to participate in 2015, Eurovision stipulated future song contests could not be hosted in Australia for logistical and financial reasons.

Instead, SBS would co-host next year's song contest along with another Eurovision member nation based in Europe. 

SBS News's Ben Lewis is tweeting from Israel @benlewismedia

The Eurovision Grand Final will be held on Sunday 19 May at 5am (AEST) with an 8pm (AEST) replay on SBS Australia. It will also be streamed on SBS On Demand.

Head to the SBS Eurovision website for all the latest news from Tel Aviv.

Additional reporting: Natarsha Kallios, Julia D’Orazio

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