A design by artists John Smith Gumbula and Liam Hardy will be constructed as a memorial for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander veterans in Brisbane's Anzac Square early-to-mid next year. The memorial is to be made of bronze.
Smith Gumbula and Hardy's scale prototype was chosen by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dedicated Memorial Committee Queensland (ATSIDMCQ) yesterday morning from a short list of three other contenders.
"The brief was to shed light on a previously untold history of Indigenous service men and women in the war effort and the people who died in that effort," Hardy told the Brisbane Times.
As described by ATSIDMCQ, the winning sculpture shows four Indigenous service personnel from Army, Air Force, Navy, and Medical Service; behind them are two dancers, one Aboriginal and one Torres Strait Islander, "sending out powerful tribal spiritual protection energies to our men and women who have gone to war".
The second artist, Smith Gumbula, a Wakka Wakka man and world-travelling advocate for Indigenous arts and culture, told NITV the work held a "very powerful and very emotional" significance for him.
Every element of the design has significance to it, said Smith Gumbula, from the group's forward motion symbolising the hope for made for a better future, to the warrior out the front "looking to the sky for help from our ancestors".
Co-Chair of ATSIDMCQ, Lorraine Hatton, told NITV the Smith Gumbula - Hardy design was selected by the panel after consulting a variety of factors - art forums, comments from Brisbane Museum where the works were featured for two months, as well as online web surveys open to the public.
Hatton was also sure to emphasis the winning artwork is a "work-in-progress" piece and may need to be altered slightly before constructed in Anzac Square.
“It's still a work-in-progress as we need to liase with the Heritgate Council and Brisbane City Council to ensure the sculpture fits the fabric of Anzac Square," Hatton said.
Several members of the local Indigenous community find a memorial commemorating first nation's people, and their contribution to the ANZAC effort to be a long overdue. Smith Gumbula agrees.
"It's a long overdue project, I believe. When you look at the number of memorials, in Canada and US for example, their communities and governments have shown respect in acknowledging the original custodians of the land through memorials," he said, also noting these countries, like Australia, still have conflicts with their first nation's people.
Smith Gumbula also shared hour "very honoured" he is to have his design selected for this memorial.
"I'm honoured... not just for my family, not just for my community, but for all Indigenous men and women throughout Australia," he said.
The ATSIDMCQ opened entries for memorial designs last year of which the four finalists were present to a panel last December.
Over 1,000 Indigenous men and women served alongside the ANZACS during World War I. At the time, Indigenous people were not accounted for as legitimate citizens of Australia.