For Our Country
Edition Office and Daniel Boyd
For Our Country is the inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, commissioned by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra and located on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. The work provides a space from which to contemplate and commemorate Indigenous connection to country and the sacrifice that Indigenous serving men and woman have made in the protection of their country.
A basalt stone field outlines the outer face of the memorial, establishing a collective gathering space defined by a two-way mirror glass veil, which captures the landscape and the viewer within a cloud of mirrored lenses. This reflection is seen to exist on the other side of this veil, establishing an empathetic othering whereby a viewer can witness themselves and their surroundings as existing elsewhere, both in space and time. This allows the contemplation of an indigenous gaze and an indigenous experience of war, conflict and sacrifice.
Behind this veil, a black-pigmented rammed-earth edifice is carved out to provide an intimate and darkened resting space, which provides a view out to the stone field and landscape beyond through the myriad lenses of the two-way mirror glass screen.
At the centre of the memorial is a cast-bronze plate for ceremonial fires alongside the cast-bronze mouth of a sealed earth vessel, which penetrates 4 metres into the ground. This vessel collects together offerings of earth, of country, that are brought to the memorial by elders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from across our country, and in this offering of earth, each nation can be commemorated in this place while the soil of their Country joins the many lands their ancestors have defended.
In addition to the project’s role as a memorial, it was understood that it also should facilitate cultural sharing between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. The work was designed to provide a universally accessible platform for the reflection of one’s own interaction with and understanding of Indigeneity. The memorial is a manifestation of a deep connection to country and responsibility to future generations.
Photography: Ben Hosking