Australian national anthem changes by one word to reflect ‘spirit of unity’ and indigenous population

Of note. Commentary that I have seen to date suggests not having much impact, with more critical voice included below:

The Australian national anthem has been changed to reflect the nation’s “spirit of unity” and its indigenous population, the country’s prime minister has said.

The one-word change to Advance Australia Fair, from “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free” takes effect on Friday.

Speaking on New Year’s Eve, Scott Morrison called Australia the “most successful multicultural nation on Earth,” adding that “it is time to ensure this great unity is reflected more fully in our national anthem”.

“While Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, our country’s story is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose stewardship we rightly acknowledge and respect,” he said.

“In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we ensure our national anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation.”

The move has been welcomed by the first indigenous Australian elected to the federal parliament’s lower house.

Ken Watt, Minister for Indigenous Australians, said in a statement that he had been asked about the change and supported it.

He called the one-word alteration “small in nature but significant in purpose”.

Mr Watt added: “It is an acknowledgement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures date back 65,000 years.”

The change is not without its critics, however.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian has expressed support for indigenous Australians who said the national anthem does not reflect them and their history.

University of New South Wales law professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barrungam nation in southwest Queensland state, criticised the lack of consultation with indigenous people about the change.

“This is a disappointing way to end 2020 and start 2021. Everything about us, without us,” she wrote on social media.

Last month, Australia’s national rugby team, the Wallabies, became the first sporting team to sing the anthem in an indigenous language before their match against Argentina.

Advance Australia Fair was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and first performed in 1878.

It was adopted as the national anthem in 1984.

Source: Australian national anthem changes by one word to reflect ‘spirit of unity’ and indigenous population

And a critical Indigenous voice,

Last night the Morrison government announced that they were changing the national anthem, to be more inclusive of Indigenous peoples and of migrants (the not white ones anyways), by changing a single word, ‘young’. It’s now ‘one’.

We are one and free.

We are One Nation.

Pauline must be stoked.

This, from the same political party who every Invasion Day assure us that Indigenous peoples aren’t interested in meaningless symbolic gestures like Australia no longer throwing a party on the anniversary of invasion, are now confident that Indigenous peoples will be so excited about this meaningless symbolic change that presumably we will no longer refuse to sing it at national sporting events.

Changing the anthem from ‘young’ to ‘one’ is not only problematic because it’s symbolic tokenism aimed at silencing dissent that completely misses the nature of the dissent in the first place, but it’s also problematic because it’s the same wrongly labelled ‘one’ as the one made famous by ‘One Nation’.

The original version of ‘we are one’ was a view of multiculturalism which tried to encourage white Australia away from its traditional view of a fair go meaning ‘if your skin ain’t fair, you gots to go’ and to accept instead the notion that we could be ‘one nation with many cultures’. This was quickly co-opted by racist ideologues who replaced that sentiment with the assimilationist idea that one nation meant ‘one culture with many races’ and that was quickly cemented into the national consciousness by Pauline Hanson who seized the moment and took the name for her political party ‘One Nation’.

Despite One Nation tainting the concept of ‘one nation,’ both meanings have persisted in Australia without much national discourse or reflection on which one we should have, but it’s been pretty clear from a Liberal Party standpoint since the days of John Howard that they aren’t huge fans of the multiculturalism actually meaning multiple cultures. They are generally more on the side of white/western supremacy, which many liberals have hinted at, and which Tony Abbott flat out stated on multiple occasions when he was PM.

Their views on Indigenous assimilation are much the same.

This can be seen by their political insistence that reconciliation can only be achieved by ‘closing the gap’ rather than by recognising Indigenous Rights as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Having an ambiguous working definition of multiculturalism began as a contest between the two, which the nation should have chosen between by now. Instead, both definitions have been left unchallenged to ensure that politicians can conveniently dog whistle to both sides whenever they talk about us being the ‘most successful multicultural country on Earth’.

This change plays right into that blurring of the lines between the two definitions.

We are one. And we are free. And from all the lands on earth we come.

You’d have thought they would have just straight up changed the anthem to ‘I am Australian’ by the Seekers, but I guess it has too much brand association with QANTAS these days, and because you don’t want to be seen as caving in to the politically correct demands of the slightly left of centrists who were presumably campaigning for this change.

Yesterday, on the last day of 2020, IndigenousX published a powerful piece from Gregory Phillips called ‘Can We Breathe?’ talking staunchly about truth telling, and about Indigenous empowerment.

Today, on the first day of 2021, we are talking about the anthem, or at least we are meant to be.

Instead of continuing to explain why the new anthem is just as shit as the old one though, I’m going to remind people of what some of our Indigenous Rights are:

Article 3: Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4: Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

Article 5: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Article 8.1: Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

That’s only four of them, there are 46. Read them. There will be a test.

This is the test, and Australia is failing at it.

These are what needs to be informing our discussions around change.

Australia has worked hard for decades now to poison the well of Indigenous Rights discourse by reframing any such discussion as ‘Indigenous people want special treatment and free handouts’.

We need to move beyond the fear of being shown in this light and embrace the reality that being the Indigenous peoples of these lands and waters is special, and it brings with it special rights and responsibilities.

This is not us wanting something for nothing. This is us demanding our rights, and we have already paid far more than we should ever have had to for them.

Source: We are One Nation?

A touchstone for troubled times, Leonard Cohen’s Anthem took its own sweet time to happen

Of all the Cohen songs, Anthem spoke to me the most, whether during my cancer treatments, dealing with professional issues for the current pandemic:

Embroiled in a civil rights case connected to violence in the Indian village of Koregaon Bhima, the journalist and human-rights activist Gautam Navlakha had his bail plea rejected by India’s Supreme Court this past March. Afterward, he issued a public statement that ended with a plea to listen to Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, with special attention paid to the song’s chorus:

Ring the bell which still can ringForget your perfect offeringThere is a crack, a crack in everythingThat’s how the light gets in

Released as the beacon centrepiece to Cohen’s The Future in 1992, Anthem is particularly alive in 2020. In a shattered, calamitous time, the song’s spoken-word solace serves as go-to quote material for social-media philosophers and embattled social-rights activists alike. Swelling and almost optimistic, the redemptive hymn from the Poet of Brokenness resonates universally.

The Future was birthed in an especially turbulent time. The album’s Democracyreferenced Tiananmen Square and was “occasioned,” according to Cohen, by fall of the Berlin Wall. Closer to home, when the Los Angeles-based Cohen looked out his window, he noticed riots and earthquakes. “I’ve seen the future, brother,” he foretold on the title track. “It is murder.”

Oddly, early reviews of The Future often failed to even mention Anthem. The album’s unlikely hit ended up being Closing Time, with its boozy swing. Anthem eventually earned an iconic status, but its progress came in fits.

Inspired by Kabbalistic mysticism, the song preaches the acceptance of imperfection. Yet, after an earlier version of Anthem was mistakenly erased in the studio in 1983, Cohen reworked it laboriously. “Anthem took a decade to write,” Cohen told author and musician Paul Zollo in 1992. “And I’ve recorded it three times. More.”

In the end? “There’s not a line in it that I couldn’t defend,” Cohen said in another interview.

In tribute to the song, The Globe and Mail has collaborated with arts organizations across the country on a video of dance pieces set to an original arrangement of Anthem by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

What follows below is an oral history of the song, culled from Cohen’s own words and from the recollections of those who spoke to The Globe. In short, a breakdown of how the light finally got in.



What became Anthem first appeared during the recording of Cohen’s 1984 album Various Positions. Leanne Ungar was the engineer for those sessions, and for the recording of The Future at Village Recorders and Capital Studios in Los Angeles.

Leanne Ungar: “I don’t think it was originally called Anthem when we recorded it for Various Positions. It may have been called Ring the Bell, but I’m not sure. The intro was erased in error by a studio technician. Of course I was devastated and wanted to repair it. But Leonard said, “No, it’s a sign. It’s not meant to be. I’m going to put it away and look at it later.”

Leonard Cohen, in 1992: “I listened to it … there was a lie somewhere in there, there was a disclosure that I was refusing to make. There was a solemnity that I hadn’t achieved. There was something wrong with the damn thing. All I knew is that I couldn’t sing it. You could hear it in the vocal, that the guy was putting you on.”

Producer Yoav Goren specializes in soundtracks for film and television. In the early 1990s, he was working in a small music shop in Santa Monica when a famous songwriter walked in.

Yoav Goren: “Leonard was shopping for a keyboard. He was fond of a certain kind made by Technics, a less-sophisticated version of a synthesizer. Leonard loved that kind of stuff. He bought one and asked me to deliver it to his house.”

Behind Cohen’s house in Los Angeles was a smaller two-story building used as a home studio for song ideas. Unable to grasp the nuances of the computer-recording software, Cohen asked Goren to help lay down the demos for The Future.

Goren: “I remember asking him [if] he would mind me taking a shot at arranging Anthem for him. He said, ‘Go for it.’ I came up with a medley and an arrangement. Ultimately none [of] it was used.”

Credited as the song’s co-producer is actor Rebecca De Mornay, Cohen’s companion at the time. Her role in Anthem was cited in Sylvie Simmons’s biography I’m Your Man.

Cohen: “I had played many versions of Anthem to her – fully completed versions and overdubs, and none of them seemed to nail it – and while I was revising it for the 100th time, at a certain point she stopped me and said, ‘That’s the one.’ It was quite late at night and we managed to find a studio … we produced the session that night. The basic track and the basic vocal.”

The new version was different than the discarded one from years earlier.

Ungar: “The verses were similar and the chorus still began with, ‘Ring the bell.’ But the line about the light getting in was new.”

In charge of the song’s string section and the L.A. Mass Choir was David Campbell, the Winnipeg-born arranger (and father of musician Beck), who has his credits listed on hundreds of gold and platinum albums.

David Campbell: “It could be frustrating. Producer Steve Lindsey would try to get Leonard to forget about the stuff he did on the keyboard and start again. Leonard’s tendency was to strip things down. You kind of had to because he had such a low voice. You needed to make room for it.”

The people who helped Cohen create Anthem were struck by its wisdom and gravitas.

Back-up singer Julie Christensen: “I was about four years into recovery at the time. The reprieve in Anthem wasn’t lost on me. I could have been lost to the world. But there I was in the studio, singing that song.”

Campbell: “It had an optimism, but in a tarnished way. It seemed like the most realistic view.”

The last word goes to the songwriter himself.

Cohen: “I think it is one of the best songs I have written, maybe the best,” the songwriter told music critic Robert Hilburn in 1995. “I knew that song was everything that my whole work and life had somehow gathered around. It is absolutely true to me.”

Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada

I have some sympathy for the arguments of Fraser and MacDonald. Yet another example of the Senate exercising more independence:

Some members of the Senate are determined to stop Parliament from changing the words of the national anthem, with one senator deriding the late Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger‘s proposed amendments to O Canada as “clunky, leaden and pedestrian.”

Liberal Senator Joan Fraser, a self-described “ardent feminist,” said the new phrasing is both grammatically incorrect and a misguided attempt to make the song reflect “today’s values.”

“It’s a fine example of what happens when you let politicians meddle,” she said of Bill C-210 to amend the National Anthem Act. “Politicians are not usually poets.”

Bélanger, who passed away last summer after a battle with ALS, sought to make the anthem gender-neutral by removing the phrase “all thy sons command” and replacing it with “all of us command.”

The bill passed in the House of Commons largely along party lines, with all Liberal and NDP MPs voting in favour of the changes, while most Conservatives opposed. Some notable female Tory MPs, including Michelle Rempel and Lisa Raitt, backed Bélanger’s bill.

Nearly a year later, the bill is now in its last legislative phase — third reading in the Senate — awaiting a final vote.  As per the Senate’s procedural policy, debate on the bill can be continually adjourned by critics, punting a vote on the matter to a later date.

‘Sloppy’ legislation

The bill’s backers, including Liberal MP Greg Fergus, hope to see the bill passed into law in time for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations on July 1.

While others, including Conservative Nova Scotia Senator Michael MacDonald, have said the “sloppy” legislation should be defeated in its present form because it’s simply an attempt to sanitize a national symbol.

“If we are constantly revising everything because it was written in another generation, our national symbols will have no value. Our history means nothing in this country anymore, and it’s a shame that we’re doing this,” he said in an interview with CBC News. “The Senate should not be reticent in defending and preserving the heritage of Canada.”

Fraser, a journalist and editor appointed by former prime minister Jean Chrétien in 1998, said it is a dangerous precedent to start fiddling with lyrics written by a man long dead.

“If we are to become engrossed in the idea that we must at all times be correctly modern, we lose a part of our heritage,” Fraser said in a recent speech to the Red Chamber. “It may not be a perfect heritage — I’m not suggesting it is — but it is ours. I suggest that it deserves respect and acceptance for what it is: imperfect but our own.”

Fraser said if inclusion is the primary goal, it makes little sense to leave overtly Christian references untouched. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s government added the words “God keep our land glorious and free” in 1980, she noted, the same year the song officially became the country’s national anthem.

“Make no mistake about it, colleagues: we’re talking about the Christian god here, not just anyone’s god,” she said.

Since 1980, 12 private member’s bills have been introduced in the House to strip the gendered reference to “sons,” which some have argued is discriminatory. All attempts have failed.

“It is something that will make our national anthem more inclusive,” Independent Ontario Senator Frances Lankin said in defence of the bill last month. “This change might be small, but it may very well have a major impact on how the next generation views our evolving history.”

The song itself has been changed many times since the English version was first penned in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, a judge and poet. Indeed, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Weir changed the line in question from “thou dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command.”

‘Social justice warrior seal of approval’

MacDonald is vehemently opposed to Bélanger’s wording because he believes the “politically correct” changes were rammed through the House despite little or no public demand for such a modification.

He said the Liberal government used Bélanger, a man who was near death, as a “vehicle” for the changes.

“That’s not the way to use Parliament. Everybody knows the tragedy of his circumstances, a very tragic thing — but, with respect, it’s the government that treated it like the Children’s Wish Foundation,” MacDonald said.

“This is just change for the sake of change, and just catering to a very narrow group of people who want to impose their agenda on everything,” he said. “Leave the anthem alone.”

The Cape Breton senator also takes issue with the bill because it only changes the English-language version of the national anthem, even though the French words would have a hard time getting the “social justice warrior seal of approval.”

“Why should one official version of the anthem be exempt from re-examination?” MacDonald said. “It is, without question, an ethnic French-Canadian, Catholic, nationalist battle hymn, certainly non-inclusive, yet I am not offended. It is just part of Canada’s history in song.”

MacDonald said he has consulted with English and linguistic professors about the wording change, and they agree that the bill’s authors “botched” the language.

“The proper and only acceptable pronoun substitution for the phrase ‘All thy sons command’ is ‘All of our command,'” MacDonald said. “This is not opinion. This is fact.”  (The full text of his speech can be read here.)

Source: Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada – Politics – CBC News

Jonathan Kay: ‘In all thy sons command’ has had its day | National Post

Good commentary by Jonathan Kay on the campaign (Restore Our Anthem) to make our national anthem gender neutral, given the reality of today’s military and society. The government clumsily floated this idea a few years ago, but perhaps this time can manage the pressure from the traditionalists (who forget that the “sons” reference dates from WW 1) was in fact an addition deemed appropriate to the times.

A way for the government to reinforce its attachment to all things military while showing a more contemporary perspective on gender.

Jonathan Kay: ‘In all thy sons command’ has had its day | National Post.