EDIT TO ADD (Tony has generously shared some additional information about the steps he undertook for this book as he was acutely aware of the controversial nature of this book): Tony Flowers intention has always been to create a celebratory book about a country, not a tribute to a particular day, or despite the text, even the national anthem. Rather a new lens to consider it with. Tony was very aware that this could be a controversial book when he took on the project. He took a number of steps to try and reduce any stress that might be caused. He sort the advice of an Aboriginal educator from the Arakwal people in the Byron Bay Area about the project before he took it on. Tony also included a diverse range of people throughout the book and in the landscapes. He also consulted with Anangu people (as much as possible during a COVID lockdown) via the Uluru-Kata/Tjuta national parks service to ensure that they were happy with his image of Uluru and members of the community. He was issued Permit #5554 when his image and use of Uluru was accepted. Tony also ensured that copies of the book were sent to the local community school so that they could see the finished work. The feedback that he received from the Anaugu people was very positive. It is important to note that the book doesn’t have an Australia flag, a politician or any heralding of Australia’s colonial past. It is very much more concerned with the beauty of the country and the everyday.
Advance Australia Fair by Peter Dodds McCormick and illustrated by Tony Flowers celebrates Australia’s richness and diversity as the award-winning illustrator, Tony Flowers, deftly captures the lyrics of the national anthem in inclusive, eye-catching and detailed illustrations. The pages are filled with glorious vibrant images illuminating double page spreads. The illustrations are brimming with details reflecting Australian’s diverse lifestyle and climate while showcasing Australia’s bustling cities, vast seas, the arid outback, life on the land, iconic landmarks, animals, plants, architecture and some favourite Australian pastimes.
This book serves as an excellent gateway and opportunity to explore, analyse and critically think about the words to what at times has been considered a controversial national anthem. The immersive illustrations help challenge the reader to construct their own meaning of the words. Each page, a work of art has stories to further unpack and serve as a springboard for further exploration and inquiry about the places depicted.
I had the honour of Tony Flowers offering to generously share activity suggestions for teachers and parents, information about the challenges that come with the large responsibility of having the task to illustrate the national anthem and he also shared a break down about each of the fifteen double page spreads. With Tony’s permission I am able to share his activities and information about his illustrations here.
Some of Tony’s thoughts about the challenges associated with illustrating the national anthem:
“Australia means different things to different people, and to be charged with the responsibility to create an illustrated version of an anthem was certainly a challenge. Especially as the anthem itself is often the subject of controversy….. So what does this mean to me as an illustrator? It meant that out of the 1000s of possible scenes, I could only choose 15 images of Australia to bring meaning to the text. I also know that I will forevermore be asked, “Why didn’t you draw….(insert location or activity or sporting event here)”.
“The planning of the pages had to show a good spread of Australian scenes from around the country. It had to be a mix of urban, rural and remote landscapes. It also had to show Australians doing everyday things. One way I have tried to make the anthem relatable to a younger audience is to include a dog in every image.”
Suggested activities created and generously shared by Tony Flowers:
As an illustrator, I have to find ways to represent ideas and scenes that bring meaning to words, but these images also have to resonate with the viewer in an interesting way. Unfortunately, I am unable to travel to every location that I have depicted in the book. So, I am required to do visual research into locations.
Ask the students to create two illustrations, one of a location from their local area and one from a place in Australia that they have never been to, but would love to travel to see. The place can be the main focus (see spread 6 notes below) or it may only be a background, it might be the activity that is taking place there that is the exciting thing that you want to show (see spread 8 notes below).
The students can choose two of the following lines of text to accompany their illustrations.
“Our land abounds in natures’ gifts of beauty rich and rare.”
“Beneath our radiant Southern Cross, we’ll toil with hearts and hands.”
“With courage, let us all combine to Advance Australia Fair.”
What is Australia to you?
Many of my illustrations are built on memories of past experiences that I wanted to share (see spread 10 notes). Create a picture of yourself doing something you have done in the past that you feel is an Australian experience. This could be anything, as what is Australian to you may be unique to your family or yourself. You may think of the classic images of playing cricket on the beach, cooking on the BBQ, swinging out over a river on a rope, watching a band play in the park while you picnic. Or you might have a family tradition that is outside of these popularised scenes (that are often used in film and advertising to represent Australia), i.e. Thai food on Christmas days, riding your bike through the mud, or climbing a tree to read a book on a hot day.
Once you have created the image, you should share it and tell the story behind it. Remember that this exercise is about storytelling, not about how well you can draw.
Breakdown of the images:
Beginning of the Journey
The station wagon version of my mum’s old HR Holden, note the orange case strapped to the roof.
End of the Journey
Grey nomads driving back down the same road note the motorcycle (Triumph Bonneville) on the back rack and the same orange case on top of the trailer.
Sydney Harbour view from the botanical gardens. I wanted to open the book with one of my favourite places in Sydney. I love when you walk down through the botanical gardens toward Circular Quay. On a warm summer’s day, you have the shade of the fig trees, the reflections off the harbour, ferries chugging past, and you get your first glimpses of the Opera House through the trees. Add the exciting assortment of people you will come across, making this a perfect place to start the book, “Australians all let us rejoice. For we are one and free.”
Southern Tasmanian sheep farmer above Dolerite cliffs and sea needles.
This was drawn during plans for the final voyage of the Aurora Australis.
Northern Territory, Uluru, a view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta (in the background). This image is the result of a research trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park in December 2019 (Permit No. 5554). Both reptiles (the thorny devil and the long nose dragon) depicted were initially sketched on this trip. The wildflowers shown were also flowering at the base of Uluru and in the Valley of the Winds (Kata Tjuta) during my visit. The final image was the result of consultation with the community at Uluru through the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park services
Tasmania, Salamanca Place, Hobart. Every Sunday morning, motorcycle riders in Hobart meet up in Salamanca Place and go for a morning ride. I am often there on my Bonneville. In this image, I am standing between my old red and black bike and my current black and white bike (this bike is often seen on my social media posts).
The image also shows two women walking two dogs. This is my wife Ceri, pictured in red with red boots, walking our two first dogs, Lilly and Holly (sadly long passed), and then in a Mondrian De Stijl style dress, Ceri is walking my two current dogs, Thor and Freya.
South Australia, based on the interior of the Capri Theatre in Goodwood, Adelaide. The challenge was to find interesting ways to depict “In joyful strains then let us sing”. I created a fictitious rock band (Rex Rock) to give that classic Aussie pub rock band concert feel. I also used this to thank some of the people who helped me make this book possible. The crowd on the left page has a number of my regular baristas that supplied the coffee to fuel my morning drawing time.
Another South Australian image, the Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island. I wanted to show that wonderful experience of being alone in a vast landscape.
The southern ocean fishing boat. I didn’t want to show a predictable night sky image for ‘Beneath the radiant Southern Cross’. Instead, I have chosen to show some of the people who work while we sleep, with the Southern Cross reflected on the sea’s surface. The boat is based on a fishing vessel in Constitution Dock in Hobart.
Northern Territory, Borroloola. The image of people working the land in a dry, dusty landscape might have been one the most cliché Australian scenes to depict. But, I hope that I have done it in a fresh way to allow readers to discover something new in the scene. This image was put together from photos from my cousin and her family working their Brahman cattle farm in Borroloola (NT). One of the things that I thought most people would not have seen, or know little about, was the bull catcher attachment to the four-wheel drives. This image shows one of the bull catchers attached to the side of a cut-down Toyota.
New South Wales, Tamarama Beach to Bondi beach cliff walk.
Having lived in Sydney in the past, I have quite a few memories of places and activities that would have been good to include. One of my favourite walks is Coogee to Bondi. I particularly like the eroded sandstone cliffs and final approach from Tamarama Beach when you look past the Bondi icebergs pool to Bondi beach.
Western Australia, South Mole Lighthouse, Freemantle. I have been lucky enough to visit Freemantle some years back. It is a special place for many reasons; I became set on the idea of a lighthouse as this talks of the region’s maritime history. For this image, I also wanted to include a memory from my childhood. My father loved going fishing, and I remember the evening and early morning trips with him to go fishing.
New South Wales, New England region (Armidale). When I lived in Canberra, I became familiar with the New England regions of NSW. Over many road trips that stretched from Griffith to Tenterfield, I was always taken by the vast flat plains that I drove through. In the background, when you look east, your view is framed by the Great Dividing Range.
Antarctic territory, research station. As I am now based in Hobart, there are always regular reminders of the connection between Antarctica and Australia. As the text reads “With courage let us all combine”, I could think of no better way to depict this than with the challenging and inhospitable climate in Antarctica. I also wanted to reference back to the second double-page spread in the book that shows the start of the final voyage of the Aurora Australis, this image shows some of the destination of that journey.
Victoria, Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne. Flinders Street Station is truly one of the most iconic and shared experiences anyone visiting Melbourne has. Coming from the small Tasmania coast town of Ulverstone, I remember as a child visiting Melbourne and I was always blown away by the grandeur of Flinders Street Station, the hustle and bustle of the streets and the sound of the trams rattling by.
Queensland, the Gabba, Brisbane. As I wanted to include a sporting event in one of the spreads for this book, I had to look for an event as universal as possible. As the football codes are very regionalised, I settled on netball or cricket. I also wanted a massive crowd, so, unfortunately, netball lost out to cricket. If I ever get a chance to create reviewed versions, I may reverse this decision. As for the location, when I started doing my research, I was reminded that the Gabba has a pool deck. This concept makes me smile; I also wonder what anyone viewing a game at the Gabba from outside of Australia must think when they see it.
Anywhere in Australia. The beach on a winter’s day. I wanted to finish the book on a generic stretch of beach, and the curve of the beach as it stretches around is such a familiar sight in Australia. I also like the idea of the family walking on the beach in cooler weather, throwing a stick for the dog. I was tempted to show sandcastles, budgie smugglers and sunburn, but I feel that this side of Australian beach life is heavily represented in books. I wanted an alternative and finish the book with the idea of the family.
I am extremely grateful to Tony Flowers for sharing all of these fascinating details and insights about his illustrations in Advance Australia Fair. Thank you Tony! This information will help educators and parents as they share this book with their students/children and initiate conversations about the words and meaning of Australia’s national anthem.