John Farnham
John Farnham is best known for his 1986 song You're the Voice. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS

Social media gives voice to Farnham fee furphy

Mikele Syron September 8, 2023

Taxpayer funds were used to pay John Farnham for the use of his 1986 song You're the Voice in a pro-Indigenous voice advert.


False. The singer said he gifted his song to the campaign which, regardless, is not funded by the taxpayer.

Social media users are claiming that singer John Farnham has been paid huge sums of taxpayer cash for the use of his 1986 hit You’re the Voice by supporters of the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament.

Some posts put the figure as high as $30 million.

The claims are false. Farnham’s representatives and those behind the ‘yes’ campaign advert have confirmed the song was gifted. Regardless, neither the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ campaigns for the October 14 referendum have received any public funds.

Uluru Dialogue co-chair Megan Davis
 Uluru Dialogues co-chair Megan Davis launched the new ad featuring Farnham’s song on Sunday. 

There are numerous social media posts making the claim that taxpayer funds were used to secure the song for the ‘yes’ campaign, examples here, here, here, here and here.

The Uluru Dialogues launched the video advertisement featuring Farnham’s song on Sunday.

“This song changed my life,” the singer said in a statement.

“I can only hope that now it might help, in some small way, to change the lives of our First Nations peoples for the better.”

 Some users claim the singer was paid as much as million. 

On Monday, Farnham’s agents TalentWorks and WaterCooler Talent released a statement confirming the song had been “gifted” to the Uluru Dialogues.

“We confirm that John Farnham has gifted his performance of “You’re the Voice” for its use in the Uluru Dialogue Yes Campaign advertisements,” they said.

David Wilson, managing partner at  WaterCooler Talent, later confirmed that no money had been paid by the Uluru Dialogues or anyone else for the use of the song.

“Mr Farnham waived his performance fee in respect of the ‘Yes’ campaign’s usage of You’re The Voice,” Mr Wilson told AAP FactCheck in an email. 

John Farnham
 Farnham’s agents said that he waived his performance fee for the Uluru Dialogues. 

A representative from the Uluru Dialogues also confirmed to AAP FactCheck in an email that no money was paid to Farnham.

Sydney Morning Herald arts writer Michael Dwyer explained that songwriters – Andy Qunta, Chris Thompson, Maggie Ryde and the estate of Keith Reid –  would be eligible for payment as they own the words and musical composition.

Sony Music Australia and Farnham also share sync fees for the song. A Sony representative confirmed to AAP FactCheck that the shared fee for the use of the recording in the campaign had been waived.

Even if Farnham had struck a financial deal with the ‘yes’ campaign, the money would not have come from Australian taxpayers.

As previously explained by AAP FactCheck, no public funds have been provided to either side. Instead public money has been spent on a neutral education campaign.

The Verdict

The claim that taxpayer funds were used to pay John Farnham for the use of his 1986 song You’re the Voice in a pro-Indigenous voice advert is false.

Farnham, the Uluru Dialogues and Sony Music Australia all confirmed the singer had gifted the song for use in the advert.

Even if the 74-year-old had struck a deal, taxpayers wouldn’t have footed the bill as neither the ‘yes’ nor the ‘no’ campaigns have received any public funds.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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