The morning I woke up to the news that Australia was to participate as a contestant in Eurovision played out like a B-grade Hollywood movie. You know the one: a moth flaps its wings in Jon Ola Sand's wallet, a tidal wave of ideas pour out of SBS management, Australia is unceremoniously plonked into the North Sea and then is finally discovered lurking amongst 26 other songs in the Eurovision final.

Australia had been, up until now, considered a harmless fan. No-one in Europe was quite sure why we were interested, but they gave us a tip of the hat for tuning in anyway.  An awkward video here, an interval act there, and voilà, now we're hanging around like a bad smell.


I remember launching Twitter first thing that morning only to find demands for my opinion on the matter, or even more laughable questions of why Australia was shoving itself in where it wasn't wanted. (Like I know?) I wasn't sure what to think initially – the EBU sold it as an invitation from Austrian broadcaster ORF, but the decision was later revealed to be the product of years of lobbying

I discovered Eurovision in 1997, while in the throes of puberty and inhabiting a space I felt I didn't belong in and often wasn't welcome in – both from a queer and cultural perspective (though I wasn't so clear on that at the time). I was that kid at school who often turned up with a lunchbox reeking of cabbage and ate schnitzel made from, shock horror, veal with horseradish. I was also the kid who listened to weird music on dusty records from big boxes, including ABBA, Vicky Leandros and the East German band Silly. It's no surprise, then, that upon stumbling across the contest on TV and seeing Russian divas, mandolins and pipes, great pop-ballads and – what sticks in my memory the most – the leather-trousered Paul Oscar, I dove headlong into the world of Eurovision.

However, upon hearing the news last month that Australia was to participate in the contest, I felt like something had been torn from within me. I had sought solace in Eurovision from an Australia I felt didn’t accept me and that I didn't feel part of, and now, these two poles were converging. I watched the mayhem unfold on social media, with reactions ranging from enthusiastically positive to vehemently negative, yet I still didn't know where I stood.

In the following days, I was taken aback particularly by the negative backlash from some quarters, often characterised by hyperbole – Ulaanbaatar 2022 isn’t quite here yet – and overstatement, implying Australia’s participation was going to be the death of Eurovision (if 1995 didn't do it, I don't know what can). But what hit me the most were the comments that Australians "should just stay out of Eurovision." Similarly, I also saw many fan rankings putting Australia dead last on principle, before any of us had even heard a single note of the song.

Now I know where I stand. People reacting in this way have deprived Australia of the very dignity that I and many other Eurovision fans outside Europe have afforded to every country, every year: that of judging the song on its own merit, as a complete package. Eurovision is above all a song contest. So judge us on the quality of our entry – not our identity, geography or the circumstances of our participation. (We haven’t just annexed part of New Zealand, for one thing.) We can debate questions of the contest’s structure and our eligibility for it separately. Debate and diversity is good and should be encouraged, but let's say no to prejudice – inside we’re the same.

As an Australian, I hope that after the winning song is reprised on the 23rd of May, Australia returns to being a passionate observer, content with the opportunity it was given to be part of such an important anniversary for the contest. We have a special relationship with Eurovision, and part of that should be respecting the contest for what it is – some things are best appreciated at a distance, and sometimes truly loving something means letting it go and letting it be, rather than forcing yourself on it. I would much prefer to see the EBU assist and encourage countries who have withdrawn in recent times to return to the contest next year, and Australia should move aside in good faith to allow their return. I hope that when these countries do return they are welcomed back into the fold with the encouragement the majority of Eurovision fans have offered Australia this year, and without the vitriol.

Follow Tim on Twitter - @timroylett