• Dami Im came runner-up while representing Australia. (SBS)Source: SBS
Australian audiences have been watching Eurovision every year since 1983.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

2 May 2019 - 4:50 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2022 - 8:46 AM

Australia's relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest has been one long, twisted love affair - starting right back in 1983 when SBS Australia first broadcast the competition.

Ever since, Australian audiences have tuned in each and every year - dressing up in super kitsch outfits and hosting late-night viewing parties around the country.

But why the fascination?

Our sense of humour

Australia loves everything kitsch! When you look at our popular movies, such as Muriel's WeddingPriscilla! Queen of the Desert, Strictly Ballroom and Crocodile Dundee, it's clear that Australian audiences enjoy colourful outfits and over-the-top theatricals. Our sense of humour means we enjoy poking fun at ourselves (and others).

This sense of humour is key to enjoying the Eurovision experience - and part of the reason that more Aussies tune in each year, with a record-breaking audience of 3 million in 2017.

Um, we pretty much discovered Abba

Well, not technically - but still!

As well as tuning in each year, Australian audiences have directly influenced the charting success of Eurovision winners. This was particularly evident when Australia (with the help of Molly Meldrum's Countdown) played an integral role in skyrocketing Swedish group Abba to superstardom.

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to embrace the Eurovision winners, who have since left a permanent mark on international popular culture. Bigger than Beatlemania, in 1976 Abba's 'Fernando' sat at the top of the national music charts for 14 weeks straight - a record that still stands to this day.

Then there was German group Dschinghis Khan, who performed in the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest - and promptly sat atop the Aussie charts for six weeks with their hit 'Moskau'.

What can I say, we've got ears for talent!

Australia's European connection

Australians of English and other European descent make up the majority of Australia's population, estimated at around 70 per cent. It makes sense, then, that European communities throughout Australia would be interested in catching their home countries celebrated on an international stage.

We earned our inclusion

Sure, it's a little strange that Australia, a non-European country, is allowed to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. But it didn't happen overnight.

From 1983 until 2000, Australia didn't have its own commentators for the event, instead broadcasting the UK's commentary. This changed in 2001 with actress and comedian Mary Coustas providing Australian commentary for as her comedic character Effie.

From 2010 to 2014, SBS began inviting Australian viewers to participate in their own Eurovision televote. While these votes didn't actually count, it marked Australia dipping their toes into the competition, with Australia's commentators receiving a booth at the contest for the first time. Then came Jessica Mauboy's halftime performance in 2014 - Australia's first time performing at the event.

Well, we're pretty good at it!

Look, we're a pretty competitive nation. When we first sent Guy Sebastian to compete on the Eurovision stage in 2015, we weren't mucking around. Taking 5th place in our first year participating was an incredible achievement - but we wanted to do better.

This is why, in 2016, we sent along vocal powerhouse Dami Im, who wowed audiences around the world with her powerful performance of 'The Sound of Silence' and came in at 2nd place - a huge accomplishment.

The Eurovision Song Contest is back in 2022, held in Turin, Italy! Tune into the Australian exclusive primetime broadcast on SBS and SBS On Demand on 13, 14 and 15 May. For all the details visit sbs.com.au/Eurovision, and join the conversation using #SBSEurovision


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