Celebrating NAIDOC week in Eidsvold

MOVING PORTRAIT: ADF members including Cole Watego had their portraits on display in the Serving Country exhibition at the RM Williams Centre.
MOVING PORTRAIT: ADF members including Cole Watego had their portraits on display in the Serving Country exhibition at the RM Williams Centre. Belinda Mason

NAIDOC celebrations got started in Eidsvold with the opening of an art exhibition at the RM Williams Centre.

The Serving Country photographic exhibition serves to acknowledge the valuable contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women who have served or who are serving in the Australian Defence Force.

Wilson Security's national indigenous engagement manager James Mi Mi was also a serving soldier and said the event was to celebrate indigenous people.

"NAIDOC Week is all about celebrating our people and puts it out there that people need to understand our cultures and that we have to live together,” he said.

"The event ran really well. We had a huge crowd attend Eidsvold and then afterwards we had another tour group arrive for the special showing.”

Photographer Belinda Mason said the chance to showcase the exhibition in Eidsvold was very moving.

"The exhibition serves as a platform for sharing of stories, both inspiring and devastating. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers have served our nation for more than a century - from South Africa and Gallipoli, the trenches of Belgium and France and the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam to the rocky deserts of Afghanistan,” Mrs Mason said.

"The exhibition highlights the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders served in Australia's defence forces even before they were granted the most basic rights of citizenship in the late 1960s.”

In the past few years, the portraits have been displayed in different places throughout the nation to recognise the contribution of indigenous soldiers.

"During 2014 NAIDOC, Western Sydney University exhibited 20 of the portraits, which were printed on 60cm x 40cm brushed steel panels,” Mrs Mason said.

"In conjunction with the 2015 Anzac celebrations, Penrith Regional Gallery featured the works as part of their exhibition Home/Front.

"During 2015 NAIDOC Week, with the assistance of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the portraits were exhibited at the headquarters of the Department of Defence in Canberra.”

The photographic works were proudly displayed alongside the paintings of Aunty Hazel Cowburn at Gayndah before going on display in Eidsvold.

Topics:  eidsvold heritage naidoc week

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