The ‘Serving Country’ photographic exhibition, serves to acknowledge and recognise the valuable contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and service women who have served or who are serving in the Australian Defence Force.
‘Serving Country’ has continued to grow, and Belinda Mason and Dieter Knierim are travelling across Australia inviting participants to join the series. There now has over 155 participants from across Australia. They worked closely with Department of Veterans Affairs, City of Sydney, Babana Mens Group to research and travel across Australia from Cairns to Perth and Melbourne to Darwin, and many small communities in between to photograph more than 150 participants for the project. 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. 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. The portraits, created during the Redfern Coloured Diggers March in April 2014, were first displayed as a part of 2014 VIVID Festival Wartime Legends light show at Sydney University. During 2014 NAIDOC, Western Sydney University exhibited 20 of the portraits which were printed on 60cm x 40cm brushed steel panels. 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. To coincide with 2014 Remembrance Day, the portraits were exhibited at Currumbin RSL Club. The works returned to Western Sydney University in late 2015 till early 2016 as part their exhibition ‘Remembering H.A.C’ In April 2016 the work was displayed as part of the Sydney HEAD ON Photography Festival, and was launched in conjunction with the Coloured Diggers March at the Redfern Community Centre. The work is currently proudly on display alongside the paintings of Aunty Hazel Cowburn at the Gayndah Motel in Queensland. We are also open to invitations to display the work in the future should an opportunities arise that reflect the goal of the exhibition, and the view of the participants.
Uncle Roy Mundine (pictured) is the Australian Army’s inaugural Indigenous Elder.