New monument celebrating First Nations soldiers unveiled in Gympie’s Memorial Park
A dedication ceremony was held at Memorial Park in Gympie earlier today unveiling a new monument honouring First Nations service men and women who fought and defended Australia in the military service.
The formal ceremony was attended by returned service personnel, First Nations Elders, Dr Jackie Huggins AM (ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board Member); John Herlihy, President of the Gympie Returned and Services League of Australia (RSLA) sub branch; Federal Member for Wide Bay, Llew O’Brien; Deputy Commander of the 11th Brigade, Australian Army, Colonel Mark Armstrong; Air Commodore and Director of General History and Heritage for the Australian Air Force, John Meier and Commander Philippa Hay of the HMAS Moreton.
Queensland Minister for Seniors and Disability Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Hon Craig Crawford was unable to attend. however, passed on his respects through a letter delivered by Mayor Glen Hartwig.
During a formal speech at the ceremony, Mayor Glen Hartwig said this monument was a significant milestone in Gympie’s history.
“I feel it has taken far too long for our community to recognise our First Nations soldiers,” said Mayor Hartwig.
“Today is a day in history, a step in the right direction for reconciliation and remembrance.”
Mayor Hartwig said that the driving force behind today’s ceremony was Aunty Lillian Burke who, for many years, has worked hard to bring recognition and acknowledgement to First Nations service people.
The ceremony started with Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony and song by Russell Bennet and Gordon Browning.
Distinguished guests recalled the history of first nations soldiers and their contributions to the armed forces.
Mayor Glen Hartwig and Aunty Lillian unveiled the new monument, which will provide a permanent honour for First Nations military service people in Memorial Park, and attendees of the ceremony laid wreaths and poppies at the base of the monument.
The ceremony ended with the reading of the Ode recited by returned serviceman, Uncle Eric Law, and the last post.
“I’d like to thank our distinguished guests, servicemen and women, schools and the wider Gympie region community for attending today’s ceremony,” said Mayor Hartwig.
“It warms my heart that the community gathered together today to recognise and acknowledge the sacrifice and achievements of the past and present First Nations service people.”
This reconciliation initiative is proudly supported by the Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships through the Celebrating Reconciliation Small Grants Program.