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History of the Australian Army Band

History of the Australian Army Band
Change has been the main constant in the history of the Australian Army Band.

From Federation, Australian military units have had bands, often unofficial and part time, consisting of musicians drawn from the ranks. These bands were of varying standards and duties such as stretcher bearing took up much of their time in war years.

With the formation of the Australian Regular Army (ARA) a brass band was raised in each of the five major Commands (Northern, Eastern, Southern, Central and Western Commands). Progressively, authority was given for the raising of various unit and corps bands around the country and by 1955 there were over 12 ARA bands.

In 1964 the Royal Military College Band became the first band to change from a brass band to a military band with the addition of woodwind instruments. Subsequently the other bands soon followed.

The Australian Army Band Corps (AABC) was formed on 2nd August, 1968 and consisted of 12 bands, a school of music, an instructional element and a directorate. This brought the total strength to 489 musicians.

The Army was again re-organised in 1972 and many of the bands were disbanded. The nine bands that survived were renamed after the military district in which they were located. This structure was to remain stable until 1984 when the North Queensland Army Band was disbanded and musical duties were taken over by the Band of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment which was also based in Townsville. Further changes came in 1987 when the Army reserve bands located in Hobart, Darwin, Perth and Newcastle were incorporated into the AABC.

As a result of organisational changes in 1991, the titles of all bands were changed to unique names which would provide a clear Army and geographical identity, for example, the Australian Army Band Sydney. The bands in Perth and Adelaide became reserve bands in 1994, maintaining an ARA Officer Commanding and Band Sergeant Major as part of the staff. Since 1997 theAustralian Army Band Melbourne has been co-located with the Defence Force School of Music and in 2014 became a reserve band.

Then in 2014, following a unit establishment review, each band became a sub unit of the Australian Army Band (AAB) with its headquarters based in Canberra. The strength of each ARA band was reduced to 22 musicians to reflect the commercial nature of the music now being played, with the exception of RMC Band who retained a strength of 43.

Click here for more history on the Australian Army.

Last updated
22 September 2016
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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