Australian folk songs contain a great history of the life of convicts, criminals and those who were considered the "scum" of the earth for stealing a piece of bread or milk to feed their family. Suffering breeds great art and music was one such artform.
- Cheap Music Books
Australia's collection of folk songs have been a by product of the convict and criminal history since 1788. One such namely tune, Botany Bay, was inspired by the actualy Botany Bay (New South Wales) which was considered the "dumping ground" for convicts from Great Britain. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, Australian penal colonies were set up by the British government for seven-year terms for these "scum" as an alternative to overcrowded gaols which had questionable hygiene practices.
Here is a version you may have learnt and sung along to in your primary school days:
Another popular tune that was once controversially considered a possibly alternative to the Australian National Anthem, is Waltzing Matilda.
As for PM John Howard so gracefully shot that consideration down by saying that a song about a thief that commits suicide would not be the most appropriate National Anthem (or something along those lines), the song is about a battler who would rather end his own life that be incarcerated by the overhanded and, often, corrupt cops. All Australian children will have learnt this song in their junior years.
Australian music regularly addresses and criticises the social norms of such hardship and life and Banjo Patterson is to be credited for describing the prejudices and unfair treatment of the edge of society, leading to social and legal reform to become the country we now know as Australia. Best for children, these songbooks are a great way to combine music with Australian history.