When it was first revealed that Australia was going to compete in the annual Eurovision contest, I was furious.
Despite being situated in the Asia-Pacific, our colonial history has reduced our perception of Australia to a white, Western country. We also have an entertainment sector that has consistently neglected to represent Aboriginal Australians or the diversity of our society more generally. Our entry in Eurovision, to me, only solidified this notion of Australia as an extension of Europe.
To my great surprise the three Australian acts that have since graced the European stage were Indigenous singer Jessica Mauboy, Malaysian born Guy Sebastian and 2013 X-Factor winner, Dami Im, of South Korean heritage. That’s three people of colour representing Australia to 180 million people on the world stage.
Eurovision is a contest in which phenomenal artists from across Europe battle it out in an entertaining, and, more often than not, hilarious competition. It’s a great opportunity to showcase one’s culture and tradition through a medium that unites: music.
Australia’s inclusion in the contest stems from years of viewers religiously watching and celebrating this competition alongside Europe. It’s now a chance to showcase Australia’s diverse, home-grown talent, in contrast to some of Europe’s culturally and ethnically homogenous countries. It’s also an opportunity to beat England in something that isn’t cricket.
Each country’s national broadcaster takes on the role of selecting the year’s candidate. Some countries find their candidate through a televised competition that’s similar to the X Factor. In Australia, we have the wonderful SBS to select Australia’s representative, which most likely accounts for the candidates so far.
If there’s a place to be radical, it’s Eurovision. The show’s history has always been progressive and advanced. In 1998, Israel’s Dana International was the first trans-woman to win the competition and in 2014 Conchita Wurst, a drag queen from Austria, took out the title. Wurst has since been a prominent champion of queer rights around the world.
Eurovision also has a political history. In 2008, after Russia’s (failed) bombing of Georgian city Tsitelubani, Georgia’s candidate was a blind woman who sang “Peace will come”. During heightened tensions with Russia, in 2009, Georgia had to withdraw from performing in Eurovision after refusing to change their politically charged lyrics. The song was called: “We Don’t Wanna Put In”.
We may be 14 000 kilometers away from Europe, but we too have our own battles with racial tensions, conservative governments, and intolerance. It’s a small reprieve to promote the multicultural and talented portion of our country in a competition that transwcends music and celebrates diversity, culture and acceptance.
Australia in Eurovision may represent what we want to be, but it also represents what we should become.