Yininmadyemi Launch

(10am, Hyde Park South)

Thank you, Hetti [Perkins, MC] and thank you Uncle Chikka for the Welcome to Country.

Good morning everyone, welcome to the launch of Yininmadyemi [pronounced Yin-nin-mad-jemi] - Thou Didst Let Fall.

I would like to start by acknowledging the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation. Before this nation took its form as the Commonwealth of Australia, the aboriginal people were the custodians of this land. We give due respect to their years of care, and we own the truth of their shared history with us, both its pain and its joy. I would also like to acknowledge our special guests who Hetti has named and warmly welcome you.

We are here today on Gadigal land, in this centenary of Anzac year, to dedicate this artwork to all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served or are now serving Australia, they are our coloured Diggers -people whose contributions and sacrifice have gone unrecognised for too long.

In 2007, when we began consulting the Sydney community for our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy, we were clearly told that there was an emptiness at the heart of our City, that there had been a failure to publicly recognise not only its rich and complex indigenous story, but also to recognise the continuing contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the life of this City.

Around the same time, Babana Men's Group and the ATSI Veterans' Association established the Coloured Diggers project to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and their families, establishing the Coloured Diggers Anzac Day March in Redfern which I have been proud to participate in since its inception, and they also called for a permanent recognition of their sacrifice in a prominent city site.

This, then, was the inspiration for the Eora Journey, and for this sculpture by Girramay artist, Tony Albert. The Eora Journey includes seven major public art works across the City and Yininmadyemi is the third of those projects. We will soon be calling for expressions of interest for a fourth, a Monument for the Eora which will be sited in a prominent harbourside location.

Together these works will harness the power of art to elucidate and inspire, a reminder of the vitality of Aboriginal culture and its continuing connections to this place.

Long before it became Hyde Park and home to the Anzac Memorial, this area was a ritual contest ground, and an important site for ceremony, as well as a cross-roads for traditional walking tracks, and so a fitting site for this important work.

Tony Albert's sculpture is inspired by the story of his grandfather, Eddie Albert, and six fellow-soldiers who escaped from a PoW camp in Germany during World War II, and were later recaptured. The four standing bullets represent those who survived, the three fallen shells are for those who did not. It is a powerful, and confronting, work which does not shrink from the reality of war.

I want to thank the Albert family, particularly Tony Albert and his Aunt Trisha Albert, for sharing Eddie's story through this artwork.

Also:

  • Liz Nowell at Australian Studio
  • the architects Cracknell Lonergan, and the heroic efforts of the large group of fabricators and design professionals
  • our Eora Journey curatorial adviser, Hetti Perkins
  • Babana Men's Group, as well as everyone involved in the Coloured Diggers project
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association
  • the NSW RSL, and Don Rowe and Gary Oakley
  • our own City Design, City Projects and City Engagement teams - indeed, everyone who has contributed so much to this project.

Thank you all. It's a proud day to see it installed in the heart of our City.