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“I am pleased to provide a message in support of ‘Serving Country’ Australia’s First Nations peoples have a long tradition of serving in the Australian Defence Force. For more than a century, they have served in conflicts including the Boer War, First World War, Second World War, Korean War and Vietnam War and in more recent conflicts and peacekeeping operations. I extend a heartfelt thank you to all First Nations servicemen and women who have served or are serving in the ADF. We owe a great debt to all those who have served our nation and to their families. To those veterans from SOLACE in the audience, as your former Commanding Officer I have had no greater honour in my career than to command you on that operation. Your performance enhanced Australia’s international reputation and advanced our peacekeeping doctrine. “Serving Country’ puts the spotlight on that significant contribution and will serve a dual role: a collection of art and a means of education for younger generations. The more than 200 portraits ofFirst Nations servicemen and women provide a window to stories of mateship, sacrifice, courage and endurance. This exhibition also highlights the power of art to open our minds and broaden our understanding. I commend all involved in ‘Serving Country’, particularly Belinda Mason OAM and Dieter Knierim for creating an important addition to the Australian military history collection.”
– His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley CA DSC (Retd) Governor-General ofthe Commonwealth of Australia 2023
For more than a century, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have had a long and proud history of serving in the defence of our nation in many theatres, South Africa, Gallipoli, the trenches of Belgium and France, the Middle East, the jungles and tropical islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam, and beyond.
Exact numbers are not known of how many Aboriginal and Torres Islander men and women served our nation, as official defence policy in the first half of the twentieth century was aimed at excluding the enlistment of persons “not substantially of European origin or descent”. The fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait servicemen and women served at all in the defence forces at a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were denied the most basic rights of citizenship is significant – a situation not corrected until the 1970s.
The Serving Country Photographic exhibition exposes the real experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and individuals who have proudly served and continue to serve in Australia’s Defence Force. The exhibition serves as a platform for sharing of stories, both inspiring and devastating including accounts of courage, suffering and mateship. Sharing stories plays a vital role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and has a strong link to healing mind and spirit.
The Serving Country Photographic exhibition serves to honour and recognise the many generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and individuals, who have proudly served and continue to serve in Australia’s Defence Force, and to acknowledge the positive roles they play within the community.
There are over 200 portraits beautifully photographed by Belinda Mason and Dieter Knierim from Blur Projects. Each 60cm x 40cm image is printed on brushed steel available for exhibition.
Blur Projects creates multi-media exhibitions, including Serving Country, which provides personal insights into the live-experience of people who are impacted by multiple discriminations or disadvantage. Their stories challenge audiences to reconsider any prejudices and misconceptions they may have, and ask them to first discover what is similar and familiar, to enable an ability to understand better, diversity and difference. We ask you to open your heart and your mind to the participant of these projects, as they have not only exposed their body by being photographed but also their soul by sharing expressing with you, the most intimate of emotions and thoughts. The support and the guidance of the participants of each exhibition have been critical to the integrity of the work.
Serving Country is available for display in a gallery or library space and can be curated to suit the gallery spaces to immerse the audience to into the world of the participants and the artists.
We would like to thank the following sponsors and supporters for their support and their assistance in bringing the Serving Country project to life:
Supporters of the Serving Country Exhibition