Indigenous art at Australian War Memorial reflects 100 years of Legacy

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Legacy's Eric Easterbrook and Graham Boyd with Lorraine Connelly-Northey

The Australian War Memorial has acquired a striking, contemporary work by Waradgerie woman, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, to mark 100 years of Legacy.

 The sculpture, commissioned with the support of Legacy Australia, is comprised of 100 coolamons, fashioned from salvaged metal.

 Coolamons, also known as bush bowls, are multi-purpose vessels used by Indigenous communities across Australia for the preparation of food and sharing of resources.

 Connolly-Northey said: ““Coolamons are traditional Aboriginal implements used to winnow native grass seeds into flour for seedcakes to feed the protectors of our Country and abroad including Aboriginal soldiers who fought for freedom, one for every year of Legacy’s history.”

 The work highlights the strength and resilience of Indigenous women as soldiers, mothers, wives, daughters, aunties and cousins, who support families and nurture kinship through a symbolic use of coolamon forms.

 The Australian War Memorial Director, Matt Anderson, said: “This is an important work to bring into the National Collection.

 “This work links Indigenous communities, Legacy and the Australian War Memorial. The work is a powerful reminder of the Legacy promise to care for families of veterans.”

 Connolly-Northey used salvaged materials, often associated with European settlement and industrialisation of the land, and makes them into sculptural works often using weaving techniques associated with Indigenous culture and the forms of cultural objects, such as coolamons.

 Head of Art at the Memorial, Laura Webster, said: “Lorraine Connelly-Northey is one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists and we are delighted to have her newest work in our National Collection.

 “This work increases the representation of the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children in the Memorial’s collection.

 “When displayed in the galleries the scale and beauty of Lorraine’s work will engage visitors encouraging a broader understanding and acknowledgment of the role of women in caring and supporting families affected by war.”

 The 100 coolamons represent a range of hues and textures, which reflect the different soils of Waradgerie Country, speaking to the significance of Country to Indigenous families.

Legacy Chairman, Eric Easterbrook OAM, said: “This sculpture is a way to recognise the Centenary of Legacy in Australia and ensure that it encapsulated everything that Legacy stands for and its connection with the Australian War Memorial. This is no better demonstrated than with this striking Indigenous artwork.”
Legacy started in the aftermath of First World War through a promise to help veterans’ families carry on with their lives after the loss or injury of loved ones.

Today, 100 years on Legacy supports 40,000 partners and children through essential medical, financial, developmental and social support for their families. 

This artwork has been funded by benefactors to ensure that Legacy could make this presentation a reality.

The benefactors of this artwork being John and Anna Belfer Trust, Wesley Browne OAM Sari Browne OAM and family felt this acknowledgement was necessary based on the deep connection with Legacy and returned service personnel. 

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