National Film and Sound Archive Announces 2023 Sounds of Australia

NFSA-Wilma-ReadingEleven pieces of outstanding audio content that have resonated with Australians over the past 96 years have been added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s unique Sounds of Australia registry.

The 2023 additions include popular music, advertising jingles, symphonic broadcasts and a 21st century concerto from a multi-instrumentalist master.

The Slip Slop Slap advertising campaign from the early 1980s changed Australian attitudes to sun protection. Robyn Archer’s 1978 Menstruation Blues makes the list, championing the right of women to speak publicly about their bodies.

Wilma Reading’s I Only Came to Say Goodbye launched the jazz singer’s stellar international career, while the output of Harry Williams and the Country Outcasts has been recognised for its development of Aboriginal Country music.

The Loved One, the first single by Melbourne R&B band The Loved Ones, cemented their reputation, while Howzat by Sherbet, fronted by lead singer Daryl Braithwaite, was the band’s most successful single.

Joseph Tawadros’ Concerto of the Greater Sea is recognised for its ambition, technique and range, and the beloved I Am Australian is included for its involvement in many significant national events.

The 2023 Sounds of Australia (in chronological order) are:
1. Anvil Chorus, P. C. Spouse – 1927
2. Sweet Nell of Old Drury, Nellie Stewart – 1931
3. The death of a wombat, Ivan Smith (author), George S. English (composer), ABC (broadcaster) – 1959
4. I Only Came To Say Goodbye, Wilma Reading – 1961
5. The Loved One, The Loved Ones – 1966
6. Howzat, Sherbet – 1976
7. Menstruation Blues, Robyn Archer – 1977
8. Harry Williams and the Country Outcasts, Harry and Wilga Williams – 1979
9. Slip Slop Slap jingle, Phillip Adams (writer), Peter Best (composer) and Cancer Council Victoria – 1981
10. I am Australian, various – 1997
11. Concerto of the Greater Sea, Joseph Tawadros – 2012

Eleven new sounds, instead of the more usual ten, were added in 2023 following a tie for tenth place following voting by a panel of audio and industry experts. Australian audiences nominated hundreds of different sounds for inclusion in June this year.

The NFSA’s Sounds of Australia registry was established in 2007. The NFSA selects sounds annually on the strength of their cultural, historical and aesthetic relevance, and their ability to inform or reflect life in Australia.

Popular music, advertising themes, spoken word, radio broadcasts and any sound recordings are all eligible, as long as they’re Australian and more than ten years old.

“These eleven extraordinary sounds reflect the power of audio to chart Australia’s social, cultural and political development,” said Nick Henderson, the curator of the NFSA’s Sounds of Australia project.

“Together, they join the definitive list of Australia’s recorded sound history. It’s a huge privilege to preserve this audio celebration of Australian life for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The National Film and Sound Archive holds the national audio collection of more than 300,000 items. The NFSA’s work to preserve fragile audio has led to the digitisation of more than 100,000 at-risk pieces. The complete Sounds of Australia list (1896-2012) is available on the NFSA website.

Image: Terry Dear, Dulcie Reading (aka Georgia Lee), Phronsie Reading, Wilma Reading and Walter Pitt during a rehearsal of Australia’s Amateur Hour, 1957 – courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive