In a symbolic gesture, shells, soil and sand collected from around the country were placed at the For Our Country – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander memorial at the Australian War Memorial on March 29.
CAPTION: Uncle Harry Allie, left, and Aircraftman Steven Ahoy at the Australian War Memorial during the Welcome Ceremony for Air Force’s Centenary commemorations. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Adam Abela.
In the lead-up to the March 31 Air Force centenary, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, in partnership with Air Force personnel, collected samples of country from places of significance around Australia.
The placement of the samples of country at the memorial is an acknowledgement of Air Force’s footprint on the country of traditional custodian groups around Australia.
Indigenous liaison officers from RAAF bases placed their samples into the memorial as Indigenous Elder for the Air Force Uncle Harry Allie watched on.
Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld expressed his gratitude for the service of Indigenous members, despite some challenges of the past.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders provided service and often made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our nation,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said.
“Our efforts to diversify our force has made the option to serve our nation both available and achievable to more people.
“It is the diversity of opinion, ideas, talents and experience that is needed for Air Force to be at its best.
“This diversity enhances our ability to be innovative, creative and agile.
“So in our hundredth year, I say to all past, present, and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of Air Force: thank you for your service.
“I am excited to see you take your rightful place in the defence of our country.”
Uncle Harry reflected on his own service.
“I am very proud to have served in the Air Force for over 23 years. I enjoyed the camaraderie and mateship of my service,” Uncle Harry said.
“I am honoured to have paved the way for our current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander serving members, and would like to thank them all for allowing the legend and spirit to continue.”
The For Our Country – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander memorial features a pavilion, set with two-way mirrored glass that reflects the viewer and the Australian War Memorial.
In front of the reflective wall, a ceremonial fire pit and a repository for soil is set in a semi-circle of rocks.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations across Australia are invited to place a piece of country into the repository.
Artist Daniel Boyd, a Kudjala/Gangalu/Kuku Yalanji/Waka Waka/Gubbi Gubbi/Wangerriburra/Bandjalung man from North Queensland, was commissioned in collaboration with architects Edition Office, to design the sculpture in early 2018.
Mr Boyd said he intended each Indigenous Nation be commemorated in this place, where a piece of country joins the lands that the ancestors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have defended, and from which they came to serve Australia.
He described the work as a manifestation of the deep connection that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to the land and their responsibility to future generations.
The design was selected from a shortlist of submissions and approved by a group of national Indigenous military personnel, curators, and local elders.
Over the course of its history, Air Force has forged enduring links in times of war and peace with towns and districts across regional Australia.
As part of its centenary, Air Force is recognising the links it has with communities through a variety of engagements and events.
Throughout 2021 other activities marking the centenary will take place at Air Force bases and local communities and details can be found at the Air Force Centenary website www.airforce.gov.au/100