On Friday 5 June 2020, the Canberra Medallion – the highest accolade at the 2020 Australian Institute of Architecture ACT Chapter Awards – was awarded to For Our Country, the sculptural pavilion commemorating the military service and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, by contemporary artist Daniel Boyd (Kudjala/Gangalu/Kuku Yalanji/Waka Waka/Gubbi Gubbi/Wangerriburra/Bandjalung) and Edition Office. Reserved for the most exceptional projects, the prize is only awarded if there is a worthy recipient. For Our Country was also the recipient of the Cynthia Breheny Award for Small Project Architecture, the Pamille Berg Award for Art in Architecture, and the Robert Foster Award for Light in Architecture. Following its successes at the ACT Architecture Awards, For Our Country will progress to the National Australian Institute of Architects Awards, held in July.
For Our Country awarded highest accolade in 2020 ACT Architecture Awards
In 2015 the Memorial appointed an Aboriginal engagement advisory agency which made recommendations regarding commissioning a memorial to recognise the sacrifice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service personnel and reflect on a proud and painful history. An Elders advisory group was established, comprised of representatives from United Ngunnawal Elders Council, Indigenous defence and veteran stakeholder groups, heritage practitioners, and Indigenous art experts. The Elders group selected a design by Daniel Boyd in collaboration with architects Edition Office.
“[T]he intent of it was to create a space for reflection and contemplation so that people can try to understand the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people … It’s about having a space they can all have access to … so I wanted to create a pavilion where you can have a direct relationship with it.” Daniel Boyd of Kudjala/Gangalu/Kuku Yalanji/Waka Waka/Gubbi Gubbi/Wangerriburra/Bandjalung peoples, 2018.
For Our Country is a sculptural pavilion set behind a ceremonial fire-pit within a 10-meter circle of basalt stones. Behind the fire pit is a wall of two-way mirrored glass that reflects the Memorial, the landscape and the viewer – making them an active participant in a living history. This wall is covered with thousands of transparent lenses, highlighting our incomplete understanding of time, history, and memory.
At the centre of the pavilion is a ceremonial chamber for the depositing of soil from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations from across Australia. The artist intended that each nation be commemorated in this place, where a piece of real Country join the many lands that ancestors have defended, and from which they came to serve Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are invited to deposit soil when they visit the Memorial. This is promoted through NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week, and Anzac Day events, public and educational programs and school group visits.
Since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, tens of thousands of Indigenous Australian people have been killed in Frontier Wars, and endured hardships under government legislation and socio-economic and cultural discrimination. Strict criteria existed that prevented the enlistment of people who were not “substantially of European origin or descent” until as late as 1949. Despite dispossession, persecution and legislative obstacles, thousands of Indigenous Australians served their country in every conflict involving Australians, from the Boer War through to contemporary peacekeeping. https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/indigenous
For Our Country seeks to recognise of the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders during and after service, and the experiences of their kin felt through generations. Boyd and Edition Office’s outstanding design honours the sacrifices made, and the hardships endured under systemic racism upon enlistment and returning from service. For Our Country is a deeply moving, dignified, strong and thought-provoking memorial that provides a place for ceremony, cultural practice, and a space for reflection for all.