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First Nations soldiers will be acknowledged in new version of The Last Post

Rhiannon Clarke -

A touching new version of The Last Post will be released on November 11th to mark Remembrance Day.

In the spirit of unity and healing, a poignant and heartfelt rendition will honour the shared experiences of First Nations and Australian soldiers in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp on the battlefield since World War I.

Renowned didgeridoo player Mark Atkins and jazz virtuoso James Morrison have come together to perform The Last Post (Winds of Change), marking the first time this iconic song will be accompanied by the haunting melodies of the didgeridoo and the soul-stirring sound of the bugle.

Their collaboration creates a harmonious blend of cultures and musical prowess, symbolising the unity and resilience of our nations.

A film clip accompanying The Last Post (Winds of Change) was created in collaboration with the Sydney Opera House in 2022, which features both artists performing the arrangement atop the Opera House sails with the magnificent Sydney Harbour as the backdrop. The film clip will go live to view from 7 am on Saturday, November 11, on Sydney Opera House's platform stream.sydneyoperahouse.com. You can also listen or watch the new arrangement at www.thelastpost.au.

Against the breathtaking backdrop of Sydney Harbour, this powerful imagery serves as a reminder of the strength and beauty that can emerge from unity and understanding, as well as the coming together as a nation and embracing the spirit of reconciliation and remembrance, as Australia honours the brave souls who have fought for our freedom.

Mark Atkins and James Morrison perfuming The Last Post on top of the Sydney Opera House. (Image: Garuwa)

The performance of the The Last Post aims to serve as a timeless reminder of the sacrifices made and the enduring bond between First Nations soldiers and Australian soldiers.

For Mr Atkins, the new arrangement of the Last Post is personal as many of his family members served in the first world war but weren't given the recognition or acknowledgment.

"My Grandfather on my father's side served for four years as a machine gunner in the first World War which had a 20 per cent chance of survival," Mr Atkins said.

"I also have Uncles and Aunties that served on my mother's side.

"The difference was when my Aunties and Uncles returned, they were not allowed to go into the bars, clubs, march or gather with the Australian soldiers or be together to honour and remember the fallen that they fought alongside.

"This new arrangement was created to help ensure memories of the First Nations soldiers and ANZACs who fought -side-by-side live on."

More than 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, despite being legally exempt from military service, served in the First World War, with approximately 70 of them participating in the battle of Gallipoli.

Additionally, an estimated 3,000 Aboriginal and 850 Torres Strait Islander people selflessly served in World War II.

However upon their return, these brave individuals were unjustly denied soldier settlement lands, RSL membership, military funerals, respect, and various other benefits they rightfully deserved.

The rendition of The Last Post blends both cultures together. (Image: Garuwa)

Jazz virtuoso James Morrison said the new version of the last post blends two cultures together without changing the original piece, acknowledging all of Australia's soldiers.

"The wonderful thing about this project is that it's not trying to replace anything," Mr Morrison said.

"It's bringing things together; a great tradition that's already there with another much older tradition, and blending them, and it's such a powerful message because of that."

The production of the piece commenced in the early months of 2020, with Mr Atkins' daughter Chelsy (Garrijimanha) and Ricky Bloomfield (Bear Mountain Productions) collaborating alongside Mr Atkins to arrange and produce the rendition.

Chelsy diligently engaged in extensive consultations with various community groups, seeking their valuable input.

Furthermore, she garnered endorsement letters from esteemed individuals and organisations, including the RSL & Services Clubs Association, RSL NSW, Australian War Memorial, Archie Roach AM, Shane Howard AM, John Schumann, Ernie Dingo, Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, and Hon. Kevin Rudd AC.

"The new arrangement is a healing acknowledgement, and a practical way of sharing the history of all our diggers serving together, inspiring a spirit of unity and respect within our communities moving forward," Ms Arkins said.

In this fresh adaptation, Mr Atkins pioneers a groundbreaking approach to the didgeridoo, departing from the traditional drone and instead employing a melodic interpretation.

By treating the didgeridoo as a melodic instrument, Mr Atkins reimagines its potential and pushes the boundaries of its capabilities.

Performing The Last Post with a didgeridoo is a first of its kind. (Image: Garuwa)

Mr Bloomfield, The Last Post (Winds of Change) audio engineer/producer and son-in-law of Mr Atkins said he knew something special would be created after combining the two instruments.

"Mark is an early pioneer of the didge and I know he's broken new ground on the instrument before. When I heard him play these notes for the first time and treat the didge like a melodic instrument, I knew we were doing something special," Mr Bloomfield said.

"In honouring the camaraderie and mateship between our First Nations and Australian Diggers we hope to inspire that same respect between all Australians, especially after the recent period of division."

The newly arranged composition is now available for all communities and organisations across the country to use in commemoration of the significant day.

It can be freely downloaded from www.thelastpost.au by those wishing to pay their respects and reflect on the sacrifices made by those who served.

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