Visitors celebrating NAIDOC week in Musgrave Park in South Brisbane Memorial on Friday were the first to see the design that will become the first memorial monument to officially recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women in Queensland.
Co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dedicated Memorial Queensland Inc (ATSIDMQ), Mrs Lorraine Hatton, said the memorial is a necessary step toward reconciliation.
Friday’s unveiling was especially memorable in the context of this year’s NAIDOC week, which is being celebrated soon after the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and 25 years after the landmark Mabo decision that scrapped the premise of ‘Terra Nullius’.
“The memorial will provide more social inclusion and be very educational for Indigenous veterans and their stories,” she said.
She told NITV News: “The memorial is important for recognising the sacrifices and contributions made by Indigenous people and their stories.
“With the memorial, we’re hoping for the younger generation to look and see their history and be proud of what we’ve achieved,” she added.
The winning design for the memorial, which will be installed in its rightful place at ANZAC Square in Brisbane, was chosen by competition.
“There was an expression of interest send out to Indigenous artists. We had several applications and shortlisted four because of their designs on paper. We asked them to build a maquette, which we exhibited at the Museum of Brisbane.”
The memorial committee obtained public, museum and online survey feedback.
“We also invited veteran communities, war widows, and got their opinions,” Ms Hatton explained.
“An artistic panel from the Queensland College of Arts and members of the committee chose the winning design.”
Liam Hardy from Sculpt Studios, and Indigenous artist and cultural advisor, John Smith Gumbula, were the artists behind the winning design.
For the pair, it was crucial to ensure all the Indigenous and the traditional artwork is correct.
The design links military service and traditional symbology with Army, Navy, Air Force and Medical Services represented, as well as Indigenous dancers.
The pair's statement explains: "Our figurative group’s forward motion represents the advancement these individuals have made for a better future for generations of Indigenous Australians."
"The Journey Stone forming the base of the sculpture represents our servicemen and women linking in their culture and heritage through traditional symbology. Distinct areas also represent land (Army), sky (Air Force), ocean (Navy), medicine (Nurses), home (Australia) and journey (going to War)."
For Ms Hatton, a proud Quandamooka woman from Minjerribah and North Stradbroke Island, who served in the army for 20 years, Friday’s event has been three years in the making. She first got involved in the project after ANZAC Day, 2014.
“They asked me to read out some of the Indigenous names because the theme was honouring Indigenous veterans. When they realised what my history was, someone asked me to join the committee. It was very important to me because of my background in the military.”
Ms Hatton, an Afghanistan veteran who retired as warrant officer class two, has first-hand understanding of the challenges and rewards experienced by Indigenous servicemen and women.
She hopes the memorial will “help feed into a new and richer understanding of Australian identity and history of Indigenous veterans, specifically”.
“There are stories out there to be told that are part of Australian history. There are people who were awarded medals of bravery and people don’t know unless those stories are told. Indigenous people have a lot to be proud of,” she said.
For Ms Hatton, it’s especially important to pay tribute to those who fought for Australia even before being recognised as citizens.
“They had to change their identities. For example, Private Richard Martin, he lied about where he was from to be able to join.
“He said he was from New Zealand, but he really was from North Stradbroke Island,” she explains.
She said Friday’s event was a great opportunity to inform, raise awareness and gather support from the community of the upcoming plans for the memorial.
“The feedback we received from everyone is that it was absolutely wonderful.
“When they looked at the design some people asked, ‘what is this for?’ When we said this is for Queensland’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial for Indigenous veterans to recognise their service from Boer War to current, their feedback was very positive”.