A War Memorial to Honour the Aboriginal Soldiers of Australia

The Yininmadyemi Sculpture

History is practically brimming with battles and war that likely began long before we started recording our history. Millions of lives have been lost over disputes, some just and some unjust, either way it’s so important to remember these people whose lives were cut short due to violence. Despite many monuments being built to honour the soldiers of yesterday it isn’t always the case that that everyone is given their due, sadly this is the case for many minorities who fought and died in wars, particularly those orchestrated by European powers, post colonisation. This is the case for the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, many of which fought for their country with no recognition, that is until the erection of the Yininmadyemi Sculpture in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

Aborigine soldiers have been present in every war that modern Australia has fought ever since the Boar War in 1899 despite for many years not being able to vote on their countries actions or even being counted in the census. Even with this lack of equal rights Aborigines volunteered in their thousands to enlist in World War I. The armed forces who ever initially did not accept any of them to fight and it wasn’t until 1917 when troops were desperately needed that they accepted some, the catch being that they had to be mixed race, having one parent from European origin. Things changed by the time World War II rolled round, this time an Aboriginal person would be accepted no matter what their parentage may have been, though they were still not given the vote until 1962.

The sculpture is very striking, it is made up of four bullets, each with a white tip and standing at 23 feet tall. They weigh roughly 1.5 tons each and are built using both steel and marble. Sitting beside the bullets are three fallen bullet shells built to relative specifications. It was designed by an Aboriginal artist named Tony Albert who took inspiration from his grandfathers experience as a soldier in World War II. He and six other soldiers came into conflict with Italian forces, unfortunately only four survived the skirmish, these are represented by the standing bullets and the shells represent the soldiers that lost their lives on that day. Albert was displeased to say the least that the stories of the many brave Aboriginal people who had lost their lives were not recorded anywhere and hoped that by creating this huge sculpture to commemorate them it would “ruffle a few feathers” and draw attention to the lack of equality and awareness currently in play.

The statue itself was a welcome memorial for many people of Aboriginal descent whose family fought for their country, they finally have a place to visit that commemorates the lives of their lost relatives and honours their sacrifice. What better way to do this and highlight the discrimination than by using bullets, a violent end that doesn’t care about the colour of anyone’s skin when it tears through them.