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Turning Lament to Renewal

12.30 - 1pm, Tuesday 21 March 2023
'We give our voice to the Song of Life
We give our promise to children and Earth
We sing for peace through the power of love
So lament will turn to renewal'

(words by Glenda Cloughley)

On 18 March 2003, A Chorus of Women was born when a ‘flash mob’ of 150 Canberra women sang a Lament for the people of Iraq, written just 4 days earlier by Glenda Cloughley (words) and Judith Clingan (music). The Lament was sung in the foyer of Parliament House as John Howard rose in the Chamber to announce Australia was joining the invasion of Iraq. This group of women who had never sung together before became a national and international media event when the ABC 7.30 Report that night led their report about the Iraq War with our singing (see the video clip on our home page). More recently the music of Lament has been used to express our grief about the destructive impacts of climate change.

20 years later, on Tuesday 21 March at 12.30pm, we returned to Parliament House, this time with permission and encouragement from politicians and Parliamentary staff, We sang our original Lament again and added a new verse. The women called to all present to make our promise to the Earth and to future generations. A People's Chorus of around 100, including politicians, and members of the public, men and women responded, affirming this commitment. 

The People's Chorus in the Marble Foyer of the Australian Parliament House                                    Photo: The RiotACT

Here is an interview with Barbie Robinson from Living Arts Canberra and here is a Canberra Times article from 18 March 2023.

Here you can see a  report on the ABC evening news. Also read this article in the RiotACT featuring a YouTube clip and an interview with Glenda Cloughley, who initiated the original Lament.

Here is a video of our singing of 'The Lament 2023'

Go to our EVENT PAGE to read the song lyrics and stories about the songs we presented.  


Vale Will Steffen

Will Steffen speaking at A Chorus of Women's 'Mission Climate' fundraiser for the Climate Council, 2016

A Chorus of Women was deeply saddened by the news of the death of Emeritus Professor Will Steffen in January 2023. 

Will was a wonderful communicator and climate scientist who made a big difference with his life. He leaves a profoundly regenerative heritage in the people he touched with his commitment and gifts for communicating as well as advancing the science. 

He was a long-time, steady supporter of Chorus.
After participating in Mission Climate  — a fundraising event for the Climate Council hosted by A Chorus of Women in 2016, Will Steffen wrote: 
‘I was struck by how we humans have a very long tradition of using singing as a way of expressing our feelings about the rest of the living world, and about the Earth itself. And although earlier societies and indigenous cultures around the world could not have had the modern scientific understanding of the Earth System, their songs had not only the word "Earth" in them, but also showed a really deep understanding of the Earth as a single, complex system and that we humans are embedded in it. Our scientific understanding has come really late! 
And the songs composed by the Chorus do a wonderful job of flowing effortlessly from these earlier pieces of music, and they remind us of the very long relationship we've had with the rest of the Earth System around us.’
Chorus member Janet Salisbury, who was a science communicator in her day job, liaised with Will on many Chorus initiatives. On hearing of his death, Janet wrote of Will's 'one of a kind big picture mind, humility, communication skills and total commitment to supporting community action on climate change'. She said she felt very privileged to know him and for his engagement with Chorus and her - always replying to emails by return and taking on board requests for involvement in a way that lifted her up to new confidence. 

Read more of Janet's reflections here


Our 2022 Peace Prize

The photo says it all! A Chorus of Women were delighted to win the 2022 ACT Chief Minister’s Rotary Peace Prize … and completely surprised.

With no foreknowledge that we were to receive the award, we had gathered at the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell to sing for the International Day of Peace, as we do each year.

The Chorus was described as ‘an incredibly deserving recipient’ of the Peace Prize by the Chief Minister’s representative, Kareena Arthy.  She said we had ‘encouraged integrity, compassion, respect and humanity’ on hundreds of public occasions as we perform our original songs and spoken texts.

All the speakers recalled A Chorus of Women’s beginning on 18 March 2003, when 150 Canberra women filled the foyer of the Australian Parliament with a song of Lament for the people of Iraq as Australia’s intention to invade Iraq was announced by prime minister John Howard.

Perhaps the most moving of spontaneous responses to the award came from Iraqi Ambassador Dr Bassim Altomma. The Ambassador leapt to his feet on hearing that 150 Canberra women had sung a Lament for his people in the Australian Parliament as the Government announced it was going to war against Iraq in 2003. Speaking of his immense gratitude, he asked to ring the Peace Bell with us.

Canberra MP Alicia Payne said the Peace Prize was a fantastic and well-deserved award for the Chorus. ‘Your beautiful advocacy through song has been such an important part of so many key issues in this community she said.  ‘Throughout history, small acts of courage and conviction have created ripples of hope and change the world for the better – like getting through the security of Parliament House to sing a song,’ 

Responding to the Peace Prize for the Chorus, Glenda Cloughley said the passions that have impelled Chorus action and music-making for nearly 20 years were peace, climate change, species extinction, expanding refugee crises and the horrific impacts of war on women and children. ‘We sing for peace in the world the grandchildren of our grand-daughters will inherit,’ she said.

Recalling the Lament for the people of Iraq, Glenda said, ‘In our action on 18 March 2003, we discovered that we had sung a song that was already in people’s hearts, like the longing for peace always is’.

Writing in Canberra online newspaper RiotACT, Genevieve Jacobs recalled the beginning of Chorus as a ‘songful act of sabotage’.


Chorus peace songs

All three Chorus songs during the ceremony reflect the power of music to connect people.

Listen to our new recording of 
A Recipe for Peace by Glenda Cloughley.

Heiwa Heiwa Peace was being sung at the Berlin Peace Bell in songwriter Elke Bitterhof’s hometown as the Chorus sang our Sue Hoffmann’s English lyrics at the Canberra bell:

May the sound of all peace bells unite us
To sing up our common resolve

We loved singing Johanna McBride’s three-part choral backing for Mr Circle with singer-songwriter-diplomat Fred Smith, who won the 2021 Rotary Peace Prize. Written during his diplomatic post on Bougainville, Mr Circle is part of the success story of the world-first unarmed international peace-keeping operation after years of war on the island. (See Bougainville Sky for the 2004 film about Fred’s work.)

Other winners of the ACT Chief Minister’s Rotary Peace Prize at the ceremony were David Savage, former AFP Policeman and AusAID worker, Robyn Martin – Manager Beryl Women Inc. and 2018 winners, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

International messages

Damian Cardona Onses, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Canberra, read the annual Peace Day Message of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Japanese Ambassador Shingo Yamagami spoke of the origin in Hiroshima of peace bells around the world. Referring to present threats of nuclear war against Ukraine, he said ‘It seems that now, more than any other time in the recent past, the global community must act to ensure that the tragedy that befell Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – the hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from the bombs themselves and their lingering radiation - are never, ever repeated’.

A women-led initiative for action on climate change

The National Congress of Women is an initiative of the Women’s Climate Congress to lead a nonpartisan women’s movement for collaborative action on climate change and to restore care for the Earth and nurture of life to the centre of all our action on climate.

With the overarching theme ‘How can women rising transform our response to climate change?’, the National Congress of Women (NCW) initiative has been developed in three stages. Two previous 1-day online events have explored the themes of 'Women Rising!'  and 'Weaving'.

We were excited to finally welcome women, in all our diversity, from all over the country to our long-awaited 2-day event in Canberra:

Renewal — How can we save the Earth for ourselves and future generations?

11–12 September 2022, Canberra
At Albert Hall, 100 Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla, Canberra (and online)    

After a welcome to country by Ngambri-Ngunnawal Elder, Dr Matilda House, Glenda Cloughley introduced the ‘The Singing Hill’ – a prophetic story about women at Parliament House from the early 1990s when Jo Vallentine was a WA Green’s senator (see video below).

This two-day event built on the work of the Women’s Climate Congress over the past 2 years and was a unique opportunity to participate in building a women’s movement for change on the urgent global issue of climate change, and to bring as many women’s voices as possible to a ‘Women's Charter for Change’.

There were conversation sessions with former and current politicians, First Nations women, artists, community and business leaders. The first day closed with A Chorus of Women affirming our commitment to the Earth with Glenda’s songs ‘Hymn to Gaia’ and ‘The Promise’.
On the second day, the conversations broadened into group conversations among participants to review the Charter themes and develop plans for action to bring about change. The event closed with participants joining in with the Chorus. We all sang Ubuntu, a well-loved Chorus song that speaks about our human interconnnectedness as well as with the Earth and the web of life. 

Reports and recordings will be available on the National Congress of Women website. 

Chorus sings with Visual Petition on Climate Crisis

A Chorus of Women added the vocal drama of Lament to the video for the #everydayclimatecrisis Visual Petition. The petition was initiated by Canberra – Queanbeyan photographer Hilary Wardhaugh. She gathered 1248 images by women and non-binary photographers. Many photographs show the effects of climate change. Others are creative responses and images of hope.

Hilary chose our first song as sound track to the video about the petition when she heard the live recording of Lament from our 2004 concert in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial.

Chorus women were present at the first screening of the video during the Canberra petition launch in February 2022. The video was widely used by media, including ABCTV news.  

The printed images were handed to the Member for Canberra Alicia Payne MP in June. On 28 July, she tabled the petition in the House of Representatives.  The Chorus sang the Lament in the foyer of the National Library as another printed copy of the petition was taken into the National Collection. 

For more information about the petition see


A Chorus of Women commenting on the 2022 election

Just in time for the next Australian Election — A Chorus of Women called for the kind of politicians citizens crave!Funny thing is Glenda Cloughley wrote the song six federal elections ago. The occasion then was a Chorus gig to encourage good women to stand for political office.


Love Has a Voice - for Afghanistan in 2021

... You are not alone, we're singing with you
We hear your voice. Hey, that's our song too!
All around the Earth the women are humming
and the song of the Spring is rising

If they hurt you Malalai, they will not kill your voice
You're a song of the women in every place
They can cut the flower, but they can never stop the Spring
The buds are opening in our gardens too ...

These words are from our song 'Love Has a Voice', which is dedicated to the women and girls of Afghanistan. With the Taliban's terrifying return to power in 2021 they are singing from all Chorus hearts to our Afghani sisters, including those who live in Australia and fear for loved ones in that war-torn country.

A Chorus of Women sang 'Love Has a Voice' to 28-year-old Afghan MP Malalai Joya at a moving 2007 UNIFEM Australia International Women's Day gathering in Canberra attended by 850 people.

A Chorus of Women directed by Meg Rigby

Malalai Joya had survived numerous Taliban assassination attempts by the time she visited Australia. Songwriter Glenda Cloughley was inspired by Malalai's statement: 'They can cut the flower, but they can never stop the Spring'.

We sang 'Love Has a Voice' for the people of Afghanistan four years after Chorus began with our 'Lament' for the people of Iraq. The song incorporates the 'Lament'.

... We sing for peace through the power of love
Hear the wisdom of women, hear our song.

We send our deep appreciation and support to all educators of Afghani girls and women, human rights defenders and journalists. 

You can read the full lyrics and hear the song here. Here is a link to a August 2021 essay by Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who became an international advocate for girls' education after she was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 on her way home from school.

Vale Bob Hawke

In A Chorus of Women we recall fondly the former Prime Minister joining the cast of 80 Canberra citizens in Old Parliament House for Closing Night of our 2010 Floriade Festival production of The Gifts of the Furies.  In front of a packed House of Representatives, Bob Hawke delivered the verdict in the trial we staged between The Furies of Earth and Lord Reason, with Ethos presiding. The trial scene is the centrepiece of The Gifts of the Furies, which our composer Glenda Cloughley based on The Eumenides, a Greek tragedy from 458 BCE whose happy ending follows the people's commitment to compassionate justice and harmony with the Earth. Bob Hawke loved the big story-song, declaring in an impromptu speech afterwards that ‘the environment is the Number One issue for me.' Read more about our performances of The Gifts of the Furies.

See Bob Hawke’s impromptu speech and his cameo role in the House he led as Prime Minister from 1983.
The performance video concludes with The Promise sung to Gaia by the Chorus of Citizens.

See excerpts of The Gifts of the Furies 2010