• Tribute artwork to Indigenous diggers in Sydney's Hyde Park. (Rachael Hocking / NITV)
A dramatic sculpture has been unveiled in Sydney's CBD as a tribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women.
Rachael Hocking

31 Mar 2015 - 3:36 AM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2015 - 3:36 AM

The artwork. Yininmadyemi, which translates to "Thou Didst Let Fall," depicts four standing bullets and three fallen shells that represent Indigenous soldiers who both survived and were sacrificed as part of their service in Australia's military.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore hailed contemporary Indigenous artist Tony Albert for his tribute, which stands in front of the ANZAC memorial in Hyde Park and on an historical ritual contest ground on Gadigal country. 

"It is a powerful and a confronting work that does not shrink from the reality of war," she said.

The artwork represents a long history of Indigenous diggers who have gone unrecognised for their service, something the Indigenous community has been pushing to change for a long time.

In 2007, the Babana Men's Group and the Coloured Diggers began campaigning for an artwork that told the truth about Indigenous Australian’s contribution in combat overseas.

"It came from a lot of the comments and wishes of the wider community. They felt the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders weren’t getting their proper recognition," said Harry Allie, an Indigenous elder who was part of the Air Force and is a committee member of the Coloured Diggers Projects.

Governor of NSW David Hurley AC, DSC who attended the opening acknowledged that the homecoming of Indigenous military was often marred by racism or at best their service was ignored.

"For those [Indigenous soldiers] who returned home they found the same prejudice and discrimination as before they left with few rights, unemployment, low wages and poor living conditions.

"In short, while they were accepted in their war service, when they returned home they were not," he said.

Tony Albert is no stranger to war stories – his family's combined service spans more than 80 years.

He says a story from his grandfather's experiences during WW2 provided personal inspiration for the bullet-and-shell sculpture.

Tony's Aunt Trisha Albert told the experience of her father – Tony's grandfather – Eddie Albert, when he was captured in Italy in April in 1944. 

"The Italian soldiers promptly ordered Eddie and the six men to stand outside," she said. "Where to Eddie's horror, three of the men were executed."

Eddie and the remaining three were spared after they were identified as British soldiers. They were sent to Germany as prisoners of war.

Less noticeable but significant is the boomerang-shaped base the sculpture sits on.

Indigenous communities often gave boomerangs, the L-shaped weapon known for its ability to return after being thrown, as gifts to Australian soldiers. They symbolised a safe return. 

With Laura Murphy-Oates