Remembering our fallen
A new memorial has been dedicated in Canberra to commemorate the military service and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought for Australia.
The memorial, titled For our Country, was unveiled on 28 March at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra.
It was designed by Daniel Boyd, a proud Kudjala/Gangalu/Kuku Yalanji/Waka Waka/Gubbi Gubbi/Wangerriburra/Bandjalung man from North Queensland and Edition Office architects.
The memorial is a sculptural pavilion set behind a ceremonial fire pit within a circle of stones.
For our Country is set within the Sculpture Garden at the AWM and is distinct in its structure and design elements.
Behind the fire pit is a two-way mirrored glass wall that reflects the viewer and the Memorial.
Mr Boyd said there were thousands of clear lenses embedded in the wall representing our perception and highlighting our incomplete understanding of time, history, and memory.
He also said it is a manifestation of a deep connection to the land and 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: from parent to child, grandparent to child, great-grandparent to child, and so on,' Mr Boyd said.
Hundreds of people attended the memorial’s dedication which featured Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers including Dr Brendan Nelson AO, Director of the Australian War Memorial.
‘Only 4 or 5 generations after the arrival of the British First Fleet, having endured discrimination, brutal social exclusion, and violence, many Indigenous Australians denied their Aboriginality and kinship to enlist, serve, fight, suffer, and die for the young nation that had taken so much from them,’ Dr Nelson said.
‘Having enlisted from a desperately unequal Australia, many found military service to be their first experience of equality. In Australia’s Defence forces they were equals – equal in life and equal in death.’
Though the memorial is a permanent fixture in Canberra, the same spirit and message it conveys is travelling around Australia in the form of the AWM’s For Country, For Nation exhibition.
The exhibition highlights the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who fought for the country and who ‘worked in ancillary, industry, and other home-front activities’, and whose communities ‘have been thrust into the front line of theatres of war’.
Both the memorial and the exhibition invite all Australians to know the names and read the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who served Australia in times of conflict and continue to serve in the armed forces today.