Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson (1864 – 1941) was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author who is today best remembered for his ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas. Paterson's more notable poems include "Clancy of the Overflow" (1889), "The Man from Snowy River" (1890) and "Waltzing Matilda" (1895), regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem.
A solicitor, he adopted the name “Banjo”, after his favourite hors, for his published writings.
In 1899 he was sent to South Africa as a war correspondent to cover the Boer War for The Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age. He left with the first Australian contingents and reported many of the early battles. In 1901 he went to China as correspondent for his Sydney newspaper to report on the Boxer Rebellion.
On the outbreak of World War 1 he became an ambulance driver with the Australian Voluntary Hospital in France. He returned to Australia early in 1915 and travelled on three voyages with horses to Africa, China and Egypt. He was commissioned in the 2nd Remount Unit, Australian Imperial Force in 1915, serving initially in France where he was wounded and reported missing in July 1916 and latterly as commanding officer of the unit based in Cairo, Egypt. He was repatriated to Australia and discharged from the army having risen to the rank of major in April 1919. His wife had joined the Red Cross and worked in an ambulance unit near her husband.
Captain Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, from a group portrait
photograph of the Australian Light Horse officers, c.1916,
The group photograph from which the above enlargement is taken, Paterson being third from the left, next to the foliage
It has sometimes been said that Australia came of age at Gallipoli.
The adoption of the Australian Constitution in 1901 and the coming together of the Sates as the Commonwealth of Australia meant that Australia was now a nation. Although Federation created the nation, it was Gallipoli that built national pride and confidence, as well as marking a turning point in the relationship with Britain.
Sir William Deane, the former Governor-General, said in 1997 on the death of Ted Matthews, the last of the Anzacs to have landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915:
"Anzac is . . . about courage, and endurance, and duty, and mateship, and good humour, and the survival of a sense of self-worth: the sum of those human and national values which our pioneers found in the raw bush of a new world and tested in the old world for the first time at Gallipoli.It is about the spirit, the depth, the meaning, the very essence of our nation. And it is about sadness and grief for young lives cut short and dreams left unfulfilled. And horror at the carnage of war."
Banjo Paterson’s poem “We’re All Australians Now” was written in 1915 as an open letter to the Australian troops fighting at Gallipoli. Although Federation had created a nation, the sense of national identity and unity as Australians was forged at Gallipoli, the men fighting under Australian flag.
Hear Peter Cosgrove, former Governor-General (2014-2019), recite the poem by clicking on:
We're All Australians Now
- An open letter to the troops, 1915
- Banjo Paterson
Australia takes her pen in hand
To write a line to you,
To let you fellows understand
How proud we are of you.
From shearing shed and cattle run,
From Broome to Hobson's Bay,
Each native-born Australian son
Stands straighter up today.
The man who used to "hump his drum",
On far-out Queensland runs
Is fighting side by side with some
Tasmanian farmer's sons.
The fisher-boys dropped sail and oar
To grimly stand the test,
Along that storm-swept Turkish shore,
With miners from the west.
The old state jealousies of yore
Are dead as Pharaoh's sow,
We're not State children any more --
We're all Australians now!
Our six-starred flag that used to fly
Half-shyly to the breeze,
Unknown where older nations ply
Their trade on foreign seas,
Flies out to meet the morning blue
With Vict'ry at the prow;
For that's the flag the Sydney flew,
The wide seas know it now!
The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.
The honoured graves beneath the crest
Of Gaba Tepe hill
May hold our bravest and our best,
But we have brave men still.
With all our petty quarrels done,
We have, through what you boys have done,
A history of our own.
Our old world diff'rences are dead,
Like weeds beneath the plough,
For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,
They're all Australians now!
So now we'll toast the Third Brigade
That led Australia's van,
For never shall their glory fade
In minds Australian.
Fight on, fight on, unflinchingly,
Till right and justice reign.
Fight on, fight on, till Victory
Shall send you home again.
And with Australia's flag shall fly
A spray of wattle-bough
To symbolise our unity --
We're all Australians now.