Launch of the Memorial to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service Men & Women

(9.30am, Friday 8 November 2013, Hyde Park)

Earlier this year, on Anzac Day at Redfern Community Centre, I said that the City had made an artwork honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women a priority in our Eora Journey.

I said the time had come for us to show the recognition and respect that had been so long denied, and that our curator, Hetti Perkins would be briefing artists interested in submitting designs in May.

Thirty Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists indicated their interest in the project, with 14 going on to make submissions, with four of those selected for the final short-list.

The proposals were assessed by a panel which included representatives from our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, our Public Art and Design Advisory Panels, the working group for our Eora Journey Public Art and specialists in contemporary Aboriginal art and memorials from the Art Gallery of NSW and the Indigenous Curator from the Australian War Memorial.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their time and the expertise and commitment they brought to this project. I'm sure the discussions were long, and no doubt passionate.

From the four short-listed proposals, their choice was the powerful scheme presented by Tony Albert, in collaboration with architects Cracknell Lonergan.

Born in Townsville, based in Brisbane, Tony is an established artist whose work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of NSW, and the Queensland Art Gallery among others. He's also exhibited in New Zealand, Israel, South Korea and Cuba.

Cracknell Lonergan are long-established Sydney architects who'll be known to many for their work converting Father Ted Kenney's old presbytery in Redfern to the Jarjum Aboriginal college and on the Pemulwuy project.

Tony's design for the memorial is undoubtedly confronting - as war is confronting. It is also inclusive in that its symbolism applies to all branches of the armed forces - the navy, army and air force, and it applies to both men and women.

If it proves controversial, it's worth remembering that the Anzac Memorial - that extraordinary sculptural work that is now so much a part of our City - was also controversial when it opened in the 1930s, with some critics going so far as to say its realism was "blasphemous".

The great and enduring works of art are rarely comfortable; they provoke thought, stir emotion, confront us with real and difficult issues.

When we announced the Eora Journey project, we were determined that it would not be a tokenistic gesture, but would be a series of important art works at significant locations across the City.

This work fulfils that promise. It is part of the reconciliation process, and a powerful reminder of the undying connection between the first people and this land that we all now share.

I congratulate Tony and Cracknell Lonergan.

I can't finish without also thanking Pastor Ray Minniecon who has been such a wonderful advocate for recognition of the Coloured Diggers. He has quietly persisted in that cause for many years now, and I very much hope that he, too, will take pride in this achievement.

We hope that we will be able to have the completed artwork in place in time for the Centenary of Anzac in 2015. Thank you.