By Ripu Bhatia
A marble and steel structure entitled Yininmadyemi: Thou Didst Let Fall, was designed by Indigenous artist Tony Albert as a symbol of the historical mistreatment of Indigenous service men and women. The sculpture was unveiled in Hyde Park last month to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers.
Tony Albert’s sculpture, located opposite the War Memorial, is comprised of four bullets and three fallen shells.
Aboriginal scholar Daniele Hromek who attended the opening ceremony, says the historic and continuing role of Indigenous people in the Australian Army does receive enough recognition today. Ms. Hromek says the sculpture as a step forward in honouring Indigenous soldiers.
“There is a lacking of recognition for Aboriginal people in all areas of society and this is mirrored in the army,” she says. “I suspect most people don’t know there were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars.”
Ms Hromek, who has an interest in Indigenous art, believes the sculpture is a good way to start recognising the issue.
“This artwork, in particular, is quite brave. Seeing those huge bullets sitting there next to the war memorial, I’m quite proud of it as an Aboriginal person.”
Despite risking their lives on the battlefield, returning Indigenous soldiers were not given the same benefits that non-Aboriginal soldiers were. They were denied access to soldier settlement schemes, received lower pensions and were often banned from attending military funerals and Anzac Day commemorations.
The movement to recognise the service of Indigenous military personnel began in the 1960s and has gained momentum in recent years.
Since 2007, the Coloured Diggers March has been held annually in Redfern on Anzac Day. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has also begun to sponsor services to honour Indigenous veterans during Reconciliation Week.
Commissioned by the City of Sydney, the sculpture took two years to make and cost $500,000. It received the support of the Returned and Services League and the NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Council.
City of Sydney has recently created a new series for their oral histories collection, which will feature interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers alongside their families. This will highlight an otherwise scarcely documented aspect of Australia’s military service history as part of Anzac Day centenary commemorations.