Today I unveiled Yininmadyemi, an artwork which celebrates and commemorates our Indigenous service men and women. Aboriginal artist Tony Albert's work features four seven-metre tall, 1.5 tonne bullets and three fallen shells to represent the diggers who returned to Australia and the ones who lost their lives.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have served Australia in the military from before the Boer War. They were treated as equals on the battlefield, but when they returned to Australia they were denied the right to vote, even up to the 1960s, and weren't counted in the Census until 1969.
The contribution and sacrifice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served or are now serving in our armed forces has gone unrecognised for too long. I hope this work will inspire and remind us all of the vitality of indigenous culture and its continuing connections to our land.
In 2007, when we began consulting the Sydney community for our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy, we were clearly told that there a failure to publicly recognise not only our 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 Digger Anzac Day March in Redfern and calling for a permanent recognition of their sacrifice in a prominent city site.
In response, we created the Eora Journey, a program which includes Yininmadyemi and six other installations across the City.
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.
It is a powerful and confronting piece which does not shrink from the reality of war. I hope you will come to Hyde Park and see Yininmadyemi, to reflect on sacrifice and remember our Indigenous service men and women.