A public artwork in Hyde Park to honour the sacrifices and bravery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women will be created Tony Albert, an Aboriginal artist whose family has over 80-years of combined military service.
The sculpture will feature four seven-metre tall, oversized bullets among three large-scale fallen shells to represent the diggers who lost their lives.
Tony’s grandfather Eddie served in the Australian Army during World War II. Eddie and six soldiers escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Germany, only to be caught by Italian soldiers who lined them up side-by-side to be executed.
Three men were shot before the Italian soldiers realised their mistake – the men were POWs and should have been returned to Germany. The story resonated with Mr Albert, who has given the artwork the working title, Yininmadyemi – Thou didst let fall, as a reminder of how his grandfather and fellow service people were treated differently to their white comrades after the war.
Garry Oakley, National President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association of Australia, said some people would find the artwork “confronting”.
“Nevertheless, through the use of Indigenous and non-Indigenous themes the artwork, in my opinion, projects the strong message of service and sacrifice the first people of this nation have made in the defence of Australia,” Mr Oakley said
The artist Tony Albert, whose family are Girramay, Yidinji and Kuku Yalandji, envisages the memorial will be “a special and powerful place for contemplation and remembrance; a space for all our stories to be heard and recognised.”
In 2006, Pastor Ray Minniecon, the Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group and members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association established the Coloured Diggers Project to honour, recognise and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and their families. One of the key aims of the Coloured Diggers Project is to create a permanent sculpture in a prominent site in the city.
In June 2012, the Sydney City Council endorsed the development of this public memorial in Hyde Park South as part of the Eora Journey project. It will be a lasting reminder of the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have made, and continue to make to Australia’s protection.
Read more about the project on the City of Sydney website.