The Living End's frontman Chris Cheney took out song of the year at the APRA Music Awards in Melbourne, scoring the coveted title for his Australian alternative rock band's 2008 hit "White Noise."

Cheney was as surprised as anyone in the room to win the prestigious category, which is voted by APRA's 30,000 membership and is considered the country's biggest peer-voted music award. A clearly thrilled Cheney told the audience, "I've never won an award like this, or even been nominated. So it's extra special."

"White Noise," published by Universal Music Publishing, beat out a hotly contested field, which featured compositions by Nick Cave, Empire of the Sun, Kate Miller-Heidke and the husband-and-wife duo of Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson.

Crossover dance phenomenon the Presets' Kim Moyes and Julian Hamilton won the APRA songwriter of the year accolade, the duo's first APRA gong. The APRA board of writer and publisher directors awarded the songwriter category and the breakthrough songwriter of the year award, which went to indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.

First-time APRA winners were in force on the night, taking nine of the 12 trophies on offer. Faker won a first-up APRA award, their top 10 hit "This Heart Attack" declared the most played Australian work. The track was written by frontman Nathan Hudson and published by Mushroom Music.

Newcomer Jessica Mauboy won urban work of the year for "Running Back," which the indigenous singer penned with Audius Mtawarira and Sean Mullins. The song is published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing Australia Pty Ltd, Blind Faith Entertainment and administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing Australia.

Sydney's Potbelleez converted one of their leading three nominations, taking out dance work of the year for "Don't Hold Back." The song, which peaked at No. 5 on the ARIA singles chart, was written by David Greene, Ilan Kidron, Jonathan Murphy and Sam Littlemore and published by MCDJ Music and Universal Music Publishing.

AC/DC's 1979 song "Highway to Hell" was named the most played Australian work overseas. Published by Albert Music, it was written by Bon Scott, Angus Young and Malcolm Young.

One of the night's big moments landed with the presentation of the Ted Albert award for outstanding services to Australian music to this year's recipient, Sony Music Australasia chairman/CEO Denis Handlin.

The Sydney-based executive's stellar 40 year career in the business was captured in a video tribute, which included taped messages from the likes of Billy Joel, Angus Young, Pink, Peter Garrett, Men At Work's Colin Hay and Sony BMG chairman Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, who described Handlin as "one of the best executives we have."

Legendary local singer John Farnham was on hand to present the honor, paraphrasing his long time friend, "Denis, I love ya."

The gala, which recognizes the achievements of the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) songwriters, composers and publisher members, will be broadcast July 5 on pay TV channel MAX.