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Friday, May 14, 2021

New sculpture commemorates Indigenous military service

A new sculptural pavilion commemorating the military service and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, was unveiled last month at the Australian War Memorial Sculpture Garden.

For our Country is a space in which to reflect on the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen from all conflicts in which Australia’s military has been involved. It is also a place to contemplate the sacrifices that these Australians have made and continue to make.

Artist Daniel Boyd, a Kudjala/Gangalu/Kuku Yalanji/Waka Waka/Gubbi Gubbi/Wangerriburra/Bandjalung man from North Queensland, was commissioned in collaboration with architects, Edition Office, to design the new sculpture.

Their design was selected from a shortlist, and approved by a group of Indigenous military personnel, curators and local Elders.

AWM Director Dr Brendan Nelson said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a long history of fighting for Country.

“They have served in every conflict this country has engaged in. Despite laws that did not allow them to enlist, thousands volunteered to serve Australia.

For our Country features a pavilion set behind a ceremonial fire pit. Behind this is a wall of two-way mirrored glass that reflects the viewer and the Memorial.

The work is a striking addition to the Sculpture Garden, and will also serve a practical ceremonial function in future.

Boyd described the work as a manifestation of the deep connection that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have to the land, and their responsibility to future generations.

“It’s about how they will inherit this relationship, and the generational exchange of knowledge that has happened hundreds of thousands of times.

“It is about our respect for the land, how we would like our children to experience that connection, while understanding the sacrifices made to seek a system in equilibrium,” Boyd said.

The sculpture contains soil deposited from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations across Australia.

Boyd intended that each Nation be commemorated in this place, where a piece of Country joins the lands that the ancestors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have defended, and from which they came to serve Australia.

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