Indigenous men and women who have served in the military have been commemorated through Australia’s newest circulating $2 coin launched by the Royal Australian Mint yesterday, 30 March.
Designed by Aboriginal artist and Kalkadoon woman Chern’ee Sutton, the coin is the first coloured coin commemorating Indigenous people.
Royal Australian Mint CEO, Leigh Gordon, said the unveiling of the coin was an important step in Australia’s journey.
“With this coin, the Royal Australian Mint acknowledges and celebrates Indigenous Australia’s longstanding tradition of serving in the military,” Mr Gordon said.
“Having served in every conflict and commitment involving Australian defence contingents since Federation, including, but not limited to, Gallipoli, Kokoda and Vietnam, the strength of Indigenous service has been a constant throughout Australian history.”
The design of the coin is rich with Indigenous and military symbols that represent and acknowledge Indigenous Australia’s longstanding tradition of serving in the military.
Ms Sutton said that a black handprint in the centre surrounded by three rows of dots in the colours of the Defence Forces Tri-Service Flag represents the 120-year contribution of Indigenous military men and women.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women have always played a significant role in the Defence Force,” said Ms Sutton.
“They’ve sacrificed their lives and fought for our country that, at one point in time, didn’t recognise them as Australian citizens and didn’t even give them the opportunity to vote.
“The Defence Force was actually a place where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women were treated almost as equals. They received fair pay, they received food, they received shelter and the brotherhood that they made once they were a part of the Defence Force lasted long after they came back,” she said.
The journey of the service personnel is represented by the Rainbow Snake that surrounds the handprint, starting with community symbols and travelling lines.
“The travelling lines represent them travelling from their communities to be a part of the Defence Force under the Southern Cross,” Ms Sutton said.
“Then it leads to proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is represented by the spears which then turns into barbed wire.”
Ms Sutton has previously worked with the Australian Defence Force, creating the artwork featured in their Reconciliation Action Plan. She said that the representation of Indigenous military personnel is a topic she is very passionate about.
“I’m incredibly humbled, proud and overwhelmed,” she said.
“My grandpa Martin served in World War II and I’ve got a cousin who is currently serving too, so it’s very special for me.”
A limited-edition uncirculated version of the coin will be available to purchase from the Royal Australian Mint from 1 April before it is released into circulation in the coming weeks.
Mr Gordon hopes people will recognise the story it tells.
“I hope the community responds by recognising or certainly asking the question about Indigenous service, try to understand that aspect of Australian history in a bit more detail, and recognise the importance of the contribution,” he said.
“It’s our intention that this is the coin that people can think about with Anzac Day approaching.”
For more information, visit ramint.gov.au
For more news: