A monument to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women will be prominently placed in Sydney’s Hyde Park South as the first state war memorial for Indigenous soldiers in NSW.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have long served in Australia’s military forces, starting before the Boer War right up to the present day, and the artwork will be in place by Anzac Day 2015, to mark the centenary of Australia’s involvement in World War I.
As part of the City of Sydney’s Eora Journey public art program, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are invited to submit proposals for this major public artwork.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the new memorial would honour the Aboriginal peoples who have served their country, many who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“It’s important to acknowledge that even before Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were counted in the census and recognised as citizens, they were putting their lives at risk to defend this country,” the Lord Mayor said.
“This very public memorial in Hyde Park South will be seen by visitors from across Australia and around the world. It will be a lasting reminder of the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make – and continue to make – to Australia’s protection.”
It may never be known how many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women served in the Australian Defence Force and auxiliary forces, as ethnicity wasn’t documented when people enlisted.
Chair of the NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Council General Peter Cosgrove AC MC (Rtd) said: “I commend the City on this important project that recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women in such a significant way.
“The monument will be an important addition to the ANZAC Memorial precinct in Hyde Park South. It will also be a reminder of the valuable contribution Indigenous peoples made during the Great War and to the Australian Defence Forces,” General Cosgrove said.
The Coloured Diggers group was a driving force behind developing a sculpture to honour, recognise and respect Indigenous soldiers and their families. The group held its first march for Anzac Day in 2007, leading several hundred people along Redfern Street in Redfern.
Coloured Digger co-founder Pastor Ray Minniecon said while Australia was yet to have a national memorial in Canberra, it would be good to see a significant monument in the heart of the nation’s global city.
“I’m really excited that we’re going to have our artists start this huge challenge of coming up with something that’s really appropriate,” Pastor Minniecon said.
“We need to make sure we honour the memory of these very brave men and women and do justice to the incredible sacrifice they made.
“We must also remember what happened to them when they came back and that it’s not glossed over: they struggled overseas fighting bullets, then came back to Australia and had to fight racism.
“That’s why it’s important to have a monument like this, because it will prompt people to ask questions, do the research and hopefully better understand the Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples’ journey.”
Gary Oakley, national president of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association of Australia said: “The NSW state memorial to be built in Hyde Park goes a long way towards recognising the valuable contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the defence of Australia, both in uniform and in an auxiliary capacity.
“The sacrifice of Indigenous Australians has long been underestimated and this memorial will recognise their proud service both to the people of NSW and to the nation,” Mr Oakley said.
The City is seeking submissions that consider the significance of Hyde Park South to the Aboriginal community and its use as a ‘ritual contest ground’.
Artists must also strictly observe cultural protocols throughout the concept proposal process. Artists are encouraged to consult with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Elders and other relevant authorities.
The budget for the artwork is $500,000 and will include total costs for construction and installation, as well as artists’ and consultants’ fees. For full submission details, contact City Tendering Officer Anthony Manuatu by phone 02 9246 7623 or email email@example.com The deadline for artists’ proposals is 11am, Monday 3 June, 2013.
The Eora Journey celebrates the living culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Sydney and comprises a range of key projects, including public art, an Aboriginal cultural centre, a major annual event and an economic plan.
The first Eora Journey public art project, Welcome to Redfern, by internationally celebrated artist Reko Rennie and a group of local young Aboriginal artists, was launched last month.
For more information, visit eorajourney.com.au
For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Jodie Minus, phone 0467 803 815 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Jonathon Larkin on 0477 310 149 or email email@example.com