Unveiling of Queensland State Indigenous Memorial

Unveiling of Queensland State Indigenous Memorial chris.tough Wed, 03/08/2022 - 12:07

Today – the first day of National Reconciliation Week – a memorial to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women was unveiled by the Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk in Brisbane’s Anzac Square.

‘Right throughout history, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders have served our nation courageously as members of Australia’s armed forces. It’s important their efforts are acknowledged,’ the Premier said.

The memorial was funded by the three tiers of government (including a Saluting Their Service Commemorative Grant from DVA) as well as philanthropists and private sector organisations.

The bronze memorial, designed by Wakka Wakka artist John Smith Gumbula and Gold Coast-based sculptor Liam Hardy, features four First Nations Army, Air Force, Navy, and Medical Services personnel and two dancers representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The figures stand on a ‘Journey Stone’, which tells a story of leaving home then embarking on air, land and sea journeys, prior to returning.

Bronze sculpture with five Indigenous men in various uniforms and traditional clothing

The memorial is one of only a handful of memorials to Indigenous veterans in Australia. It honours, respects and remembers Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

‘Queensland being the only state that has Torres Strait Islander Peoples, is another reason the memorial is unique and truly, inclusively Indigenous,’ says Aunty Lorraine Hatton OAM, President and Chair of the organising committee, which worked in partnership with Griffith University.

The committee’s website points out: ‘Many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women have fought for our country from the Boer War onwards. A common passion and love for this country is where differences were set aside and cultures were united. Unfortunately the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers are rarely acknowledged in the fabric of Australian history.

‘We see the memorial representing past present and future Indigenous service men and women, given they are in service uniforms from various periods and the lone warrior at the front is in AMCU [combat uniform] trousers, and is adorned with traditional scarring. 

Repatriation Commissioner Don Spinks AM attended the unveiling. ‘Today was all about remembering, respect and reconciliation,’ he said. ‘This is a very fitting memorial for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have served our Nation.’

About 200 First Nations Elders, Australian Defence Force representatives, veterans, project partners and philanthropists attended along with Lord Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner. RSL Queensland helped some remote Indigenous veterans come to the event.

Aunty Lorraine is formally recognised as a First Nation’s Quandamooka Elder. She joined the Army in 1986 and spent the next 21 years taking part in peacekeeping, humanitarian, peace-monitoring and war operations. Though retired from the Army, Aunty Lorraine was appointed Indigenous Elder of the Australian Army in May 2020. Later that year, she was appointed to the Indigenous Advisory Group at the Australian War Memorial. Aunty Lorraine is involved in many charities, and in 2019 was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.

‘The Defence family has many stories to be told and this story of the memorial is a legacy of Indigenous military history and all the challenges and hardships Indigenous people endured,’ she says.

Middle-aged man and Indigenous woman, both wearing medals, in front of bronze sculpture

Aunty Lorraine Hatton OAM with Repatriation Commissioner Don Spinks AM