A powerful new public artwork takes pride of place on the banks of Parramatta River inviting the community to reflect and remember Australia’s brave First Nations heroes.
On 18 July, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, veterans and other dignitaries will gather at Queen’s Wharf Reserve on the foreshore of the Parramatta River for the official launch of Firesticks, the City of Parramatta’s memorial in honour of First Nations servicemen and women.
Created by Western Sydney artist Jason Wing, the striking steel artwork depicts eight canoes containing firesticks, representing those used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years.
Mr Wing said the firesticks also signifies the ANZAC eternal flame, while the canoes evoke the practice of ship burials, providing a symbolic resting place for First Nations service personnel who do not have a physical grave or plaque.
“It was a privilege to work with Dharug communities on this significant artwork. There’s an extreme lack of visual Aboriginal presence across Australia, so it’s an honour to be able to contribute to Aboriginal place-making,” Mr Wing said.
“Culturally, the site is important to acknowledge the traditions of Dharug people and the nexus of colonisation. Firesticks reflects the traditional defending of Country by Dharug communities, while acknowledging the official defence of our nation by Aboriginal service people.”
City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Donna Davis said the artwork will encourage visitors and passers-by to reflect on the local Dharug people and pay their respects to First Nations servicemen and women who have defended Australia on land and at sea.
“This memorial is a symbolic resting place for the often soldiers – brave Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served our country during times of war,” Lord Mayor Cr Donna Davis said. “It offers a peaceful place where our First Nations communities can gather and reflect.”
Commissioned by the City of Parramatta, the artwork has been guided by a Memorial Steering Committee comprising representatives from the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL), Indigenous veterans and representatives of Council’s former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee.
Corporal Ronald Schultz, a proud Wiradjuri man and veteran of the Royal Australian Air Force said the Firesticks memorial is an important addition to the City’s epitaphs. Corporal Schultz continues his service of over 20 years as part of the Defence Force’s Indigenous Recruiting Team.
“My pop was in the Army and my Dad – so it made sense for me to enlist too,” Corporal Schultz said.
“An indigenous memorial on the banks of the Burramatta River to acknowledge those past, present and future First Nations servicemen and women is deeply significant. It’s so important we have a place to pause and reflect as we remember those who have bravely served across the Army, Navy and Air Force.”
Further along the river foreshore, the City of Parramatta has raised the Aboriginal Flag alongside the Australian National Flag. The flag will be flown on Council’s flagpole on an ongoing basis.
“We are proud to raise the Aboriginal Flag where it will fly over the Parramatta River as a mark of respect for our First Nations community,” Lord Mayor Cr Donna Davis said.