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Reconciliation Place

Reconciliation Place

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay respect to their leaders, past and present. Visitors to this website should be aware that names may be mentioned, or images portrayed, of people who are now deceased. Any distress this may cause is sincerely regretted.

Ngunna yerrabi yanggu is a traditional welcome to Ngunnawal country meaning ‘(you may) walk on this country now'.

On 22 May 2000, as a symbol of the Government's commitment to the ongoing reconciliation process, Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard MP announced that a ‘reconciliation square' (as it was then called) would be constructed in the National Capital. On 7 December 2000 he then announced that Reconciliation Place would be constructed in the Parliamentary Zone. The site is at the junction of Walter Burley Griffin's Land Axis and the pedestrian cross-axes between the National Library of Australia to the west, and the High Court of Australia to the east. The selection of this location places the reconciliation process physically and symbolically at the heart of Australian democratic and cultural life.

A national design competition was launched on 28 February 2001. The competition closed on 9 May 2001 and thirty-six entries were received. It was an essential requirement of the design competition that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person formed part of the design team. Reconciliation Place was officially opened on 22 July 2002 by Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard MP.

Education programs and group bookings are offered free of charge but must be booked.

Regularly scheduled public guided walks are available during daylight saving.

  • Artwork 1 - fire and water
  • Artwork 2 - Methalu Tharri (Smooth Sailing)
  • Artwork 3 - Separation
  • Artwork 4 - Separation
  • Artwork 5 - Kwi'ith, Man and Woman Yam
  • Artwork 6 - Strength, Service and Sacrifice
  • Artwork 7 - Ngunnawal
  • Artwork 8 - Leadership
  • Artwork 9 - Referendum
  • Artwork 10 - Women
  • Artwork 11 - Ruby Florence Hammond PSM
  • Artwork 12 - Robert Lee
  • Artwork 13 - Wenten Rubuntja AM
  • Artwork 14 - Land Rights
  • Artwork 15 - Bill Neidjie OAM
  • Artwork 16 - Gatjil Djerrkura OAM
  • Artwork 17 - Wati Jarra Jukurrpa (Two Men Dreaming)

Artwork 1 - fire and water

Judy Watson's fire and water is a sensorial journey which begins at the hearthstone, passes between the bower, to rest on and listen to the sounds of the gathering stone, and continues among the sinuous lines of reeds toward the misting pool, where fine sprays of cooling water cleanse and refresh.

The hearthstone recalls the large flat Yuriarra Moth Stone upon which fires were lit. When the surface was hot enough, the bogong moths were shaken out of the dilly bags in which they had been gathered and cooked. All of the people would come together to share and feast upon this rich cultural resource.

The sides of the bower bend-in towards each other in a gesture of Reconciliation, like two hands cupping the distance between them. The blackened weathered steel elements form a listening, sheltering space and speak of recent and ancient fires.

The bronze gathering stone embraced within the bower emanates sound through its pores, which increases and decreases in intensity. Michael Hewes' sound design suggests both the congregation of bogong moths flying in on their annual migration to the high country and the gathering of people coming together to feast on them.

Judy Watson is an artist whose Indigenous matrilineal family is from country in
north-west Queensland. She has exhibited widely, including co-representing Australia at the 1997 Venice Biennale, and she was the recipient of the 2006 Clemenger Contemporary Art Award of the National Gallery of Victoria. She was one of eight Indigenous Australian artists whose work was incorporated into the Musee du Quai Branly, Paris, in 2006.


  • Artist: Judy Watson
  • Sound Design: Michael Hewes
  • Cultural Advisor: Matilda House

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Yuriarra Moth Stone

The Yuriarra moth cooking stone at Uriarra Station was the base camp in ancestral times for the annual ceremonial Ngambri trek from Gudgenby to the Bogong Mountains to catch bogong (gori) moths. The ceremony brought together groups of Aboriginal people to hunt and gather, and to renew their relationships. Friends and foes alike would put aside their differences.

As the traditional custodians of the Bogong Mountains, the Ngambri and their kin group, the Ngurmal, hosted the ceremony. Women always took charge of the base camp and prepared the moths.

The Yuriarra moth cooking stone site has high scientific, aesthetic, historical and social significance for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

Matilda House - Ngambri

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Artwork 2 - Methalu Tharri (Smooth Sailing)

Vic McGrath's Methalu Tharri (Smooth Sailing) takes its inspiration from the sails and mast of a traditional Torres Strait Islands canoe just landed on a beach. The artwork reflects the idea that all Australians share their experiences under the same stars.

On the sails, fabricated from weathered steel, are designs relating to important aspects of Torres Strait Islands culture. Represented on the first sail is the constellation of Tagai, a mythical hero who stands in a canoe; his left hand, the Southern Cross, holds a fish spear. The stars of Tagai usher in seasonal changes and are a guide to voyaging and cultivating throughout the Torres Strait. The constellation on the sail is created from inlaid, hand-carved pearl shell, producing a translucent field of stars.

The design on the second sail recalls the traditional craft of creating fretted pearl shells. At the centre of this pattern is a noon-marker - a simple sundial device that tracks the noonday sun throughout the year. The text on the adjacent concrete plinth (representing the beaches of the Torres Strait) is linked to the shadow cast by the noon-marker. The visitor is thus able to ascertain relative seasonal aspects, important to Torres Strait Islands culture.

Vic McGrath, born and still living on Waibene (Thursday Island), is a self-taught artist who learnt about scrimshaw and shell carving from traditional craftsmen. His work continues the Torres Strait tradition of carving pearl shell, turtle shell, black coral and dugong tusks, their surfaces etched with images of marine and terrestrial wildlife as well as more stylised design work. He has been involved in a wide range of cultural and environmental research and projects, including as Manager of the Gab Titui Cultural Centre, Thursday Island. He has curated an Indigenous art exhibition in Washington DC, where he also lectured on Torres Strait art at the Smithsonian Institute.


  • Artist: Vic McGrath
  • Cultural Advisor: Joseph Elu
  • Architect Kevin: O'Brien
  • Graphic Design: Jennifer Marchant

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Artwork 3 - Separation

Many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families, with the authorisation of Australian governments, to be raised in institutions, or fostered or adopted by non-Indigenous families. Some were given up by parents seeking a better life for their children. Many were forcibly removed and see themselves as 'the stolen generations'.

Many of these children experienced overwhelming grief, and the loss of childhood and innocence, family and family relationships, identity, language and culture, country and spirituality.

This artwork is constructed from stainless steel and slumped glass, and features an image of the boy in the bungalow. Housed within the artwork is an empty coolamon - a traditional vessel for carrying a baby - from which a recorded Indigenous lullaby can be heard. It is a place for quiet reflection - to contemplate the silence and emptiness experienced after children are taken from community.

To symbolise the reconnection with culture, words meaning baby, child or children from a number of Indigenous languages of Australia are etched into the glass panels.


  • Aboriginal Cultural Advisor: Sharon Payne;
  • Architect: Simon Kringas
  • Exhibition Designers: Marcus Bree, Benita Tunks
  • Graphic Designer: Alan Vogt

Images (by permission of)

  • Aerial of spinifex: Richard Woldendorp
  • Boy at the Bungalow: National Archives of Australia 1930/1542
  • Coolamon: Karen Casey
  • Homes are sought for these children: National Archives of Australia A1,1934/6800
  • Methodist girls at the Bungalow: National Trust (Northern Territory)
  • Mission school, Bathurst Island: National Archives of Australia A263;27a
  • School fife band at the Bungalow: National Trust (Northern Territory)
  • Three aboriginal children in bath playing in the water: Merle Jackomos
  • Water, Sand Pattern: Richard Woldendorp


  • Inanay (lullaby): Lou Bennett (mother's voice), Pep Gascoigne (child's voice), Tim Cole (sound production)

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Artwork 4 - Separation

this artwork is inspired by the landscape of central Australia and is made of red oxide concrete. On the northern side of the artwork small holes have been drilled forming the shape of Australia. The holes provide an opportunity for people to leave messages recording their experience or thoughts on the issue of the separation of children.

Words describing aspects of the experience are also incorporated. These appear in the form of direct quotes from those who were taken, their carers and others involved. Behind the steel panel is a movement-activated speaker from which the song 'Took the Children Away', written and sung by Archie Roach, can be heard.


  • Design Architects: Graham Scott-Bohanna, Andrew Smith
  • Designer of Fountain Base: Karen Casey
  • Graphic Designer: Cate Riley
  • Sculptor: Darryl Cowie

Images (by permission of)

  • Letter from William Bray to the Protector of Aborigines: courtesy of the Bray family, and National Archives of Australia
  • Darwin: CRS F126 Item 33


  • Took the Children Away: Archie Roach, courtesy of Festival Mushroom Records Pty Ltd & Mushroom Music Publishing Pty Ltd

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Artwork 5 - Kwi'ith, Man and Woman Yam

Thanakupi's Kwi'ith, Man and Woman Yam is a response to the theme of Indigenous art within the context of Reconciliation. This artwork explores the simple yet powerful themes pivotal to the notion of Reconciliation: communication, notions of sharing and a sense of harmony between all people. The long yam and the cheeky yam featured in the work represent man and woman.

The texture on the surface of the bronze works refers to the form and quality of the yams themselves, and provides a surface that encourages visitors to touch and engage with the sculptures.

The words on the plinth - evocative of the Reconciliation experience - refer to the traditional practice of story-telling by inscribing marks and images into the sand on the ground.

Thanakupi (Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher) was the first Indigenous artist in Australia to study ceramics at tertiary level and the first to establish a ceramics studio. Her work often relates to culturally significant organic forms and is held by the major public collections of Australia. An artist, teacher and Thanaquith Elder, Thanakupi is considered to be one of north Queensland's most significant contemporary artists.


  • Artist Thanakupi: (Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher)
  • Assistant Sculptor: Jerko Starcevic

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Artwork 6 - Strength, Service and Sacrifice

The qualities of strength, service and sacrifice fire the human spirit. Indigenous people within the armed forces represent these qualities. The first commissioned Indigenous officer, Captain Reg Saunders, nurse Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) and Torres Strait Islander soldier Sedo Gebade are depicted on this artwork. All saw active service. The other side of the artwork recognises sport and recreation, a common meeting ground for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Included are images of the first Australian cricket team to tour England (1868), Tiwi footballers taking a mark, children playing cricket and Cathy Freeman (Australian gold medallist) lighting the Olympic cauldron at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The rich colours of the Australian landscape at sunset act as a backdrop for the images, signifying land as the unifying element for all Australian endeavour and sacrifice.


  • Architect: Simon Kringas
  • Aboriginal Cultural Advisor: Sharon Payne
  • Exhibition Designers: Marcus Bree, Benita Tunks
  • Graphic Designer: Alan Vogt

Images (by permission of)

  • Aboriginal cricket team that toured England (1867): National Library of Australia
  • Captain Reg Saunders (Soldier): Glenda Humes
  • Children playing cricket: Colin and Paul Tatz
  • Lighting of the cauldron: Jamie Squire (All Sport)
  • Nurse, Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal): Patty Walker
  • Sedo Gebade (Morotai 1945): Australian War Memorial
  • Soldiers (Wangaratta 1940): Australian War Memorial
  • Sunset: Marcus Bree
  • Tiwi Island footballers taking a mark: Colin and Paul Tatz

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Artwork 7 - Ngunnawal

'Ngunna yerrabi yanggu' meaning '(you may) walk on this country now' is a traditional welcome to Ngunnawal country. This artwork features a stone from a local Canberra quarry alongside a slumped glass panel, depicting the migratory patterns of the Bogong moth overlayed on a map of Australia. The moth represents the Bogong time, when different language groups gathered in this area to feast on the plentiful supply of Bogongs. This annual event also enabled exchange between the various clans to carry out initiation ceremonies, reconcile differences and settle disputes. The image of the Wedgetail eagle etched on this artwork signifies the high country of the Ngunnawal people.


  • Architect: Simon Kringas
  • Aboriginal Cultural Advisor: Sharon Payne
  • Exhibition Designers: Marcus Bree, Benita Tunks
  • Graphic Designer: Alan Vogt

Images (by permission of)

  • Australian Landsat mosaic: GEOIMAGE
  • Bogong moths: Marianne Walsh
  • Bogong moths: Jimmy Williams
  • Wedgetail eagle: Brendan Tunks

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Artwork 8 - Leadership

To celebrate Indigenous leadership, this artwork focuses on two Aboriginal men. Neville Bonner, a Jagera man, fought for his people 'within the system', and became the first Indigenous Senator in the Australian Parliament (1971). Vincent Lingiari, a Gurindji man, led his people in a walk-off at Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory in 1966 which began the Aboriginal land rights movement in Australia.

The southern face of the artwork features an artist's representation of a carpet snake (Neville Bonner's totem) burnt into a redgum timber surface behind Bonner's image. The northern faces feature a timeline with images depicting significant events during the fifteen-year campaign for recognition of land rights.

The lower image on the north-eastern side was derived from the Gurindji Freedom Banner, a tapestry created by Gurindji women depicting the Wave Hill walk-off.

The featured song, 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, tells the story of Wave Hill and Vincent Lingiari.

Sliver Attributions

  • Aboriginal Cultural Advisor: Sharon Payne
  • Architect: Paul Barnett
  • Concept Designers: Marcus Bree, Benita Tunks
  • Final Designer: Benita Tunks
  • Graphic Designer: Alan Vogt

Images (by permission of)

A Gurindji Man

  • Gurindji Men: Brian Manning
  • Tree at Daguragu: Sharon Payne
  • Vincent Lingiari: courtesy of AIATSIS Audiovisual Archives Program
  • Vincent Lingiari & Donald Nangiari: National Archives of Australia A1200,L96542
  • Vincent Lingiari & Gough Whitlam: Mervyn G Bishop, 1975 Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2004

A Jagera Man

  • Neville Bonner: The Courier Mail Newspaper
  • Snake Totem: Charlie Chambers Jnr

Wave Hill

  • Davis Daniels, Lupgna Giari (Captain Major), Brian Manning, Robert Tudawali: Brian Manning
  • Dexter Daniels, Donald Nangiari, Pincher Numiari, Mick Rangiari: Northern Territory Government Collection, Northern Territory Library
  • Frank Hardy: Frank Hardy Collection, National Library of Australia
  • Wagon Joe, Jimmy Muniari, Victor Vincent: Missions Publications of Australia collection, courtesy of AIATSIS, Audiovisual Archives Program
  • Vincent Lingiari: National Archives of Australia A8598, AK6/5/80/16
  • 'Walk-off' artwork: Joanna Barrkman, Chips Mackinolty and members of the Gurindji Community
  • Windmill: Geoff Higgins


  • From Little Things Big Things Grow: Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, courtesy of Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd, Universal Music Publishing Pty Ltd and Song Cycles Pty Lt

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Artwork 9 - Referendum

At the 1967 Referendum, 90.77% of Australian voters said 'Yes' to the Australian Government making laws specifically relating to Indigenous Australians, and for the inclusion of Indigenous Australians in the national census. This empowered the Commonwealth to override discriminatory State legislation and to enact special laws and programmes for Indigenous Australians. This artwork incorporates extracts from the referendum documents and the Australian Constitution. Archival images illustrate the events which led to the referendum, including the Official Day of Mourning in 1938, and the delegates attending the Federal Council for Advancement of the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.


  • Architect: Simon Kringas
  • Aboriginal Cultural Advisor: Sharon Payne
  • Exhibition Designers: Marcus Bree, Benita Tunks
  • Graphic Designer: Alan Vogt

Images (by permission of)

  • Australian Aborigines Conference: Lorna Lippmann
  • Day of Mourning: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  • Delegates FCAATSI: Merle Jackomos
  • Faith Bandler & Jack Horner: Faith Bandler
  • Gordon Bryant: Faith Bandler
  • Jean & Jack Horner: Canberra Times
  • Jessie Street: National Library of Australia
  • Joe McGuinness & friends: Faith Bandler
  • Sir Doug Nicholls & Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal): Faith Bandler
  • Stan Davey & Riley Young: Debbie Rose
  • Rights Wrongs, Write Yes poster: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

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Artwork 10 - Women

Three cast bronze slivers create the focus of the Women Artwork. The concave etched copper surface of each sliver presents a biographical sketch of Dr Faith Bandler, Lady Jessie Street and Dr Evelyn Scott. The artwork serves to remind us of the determination of these women and their collective contribution to Reconciliation in Australia, including through their roles in the 1967 Referendum.

The slivers are arranged to form a contemplative space adjacent to a circular seat, which incorporates an audio feature comprising personal reflections by Dr Faith Bandler, Dr Evelyn Scott and Sir Laurence Street. Two key words and a quotation feature on the convex side of each sliver, highlighting personal values or qualities particular to each individual. Incorporated into the surrounding pavement are additional words embodying qualities and values considered mutually important to all three women.

Dr Faith Bandler AM

life is about...getting up...helping each other and doing the best we can, to raise people out of their misery

Dr Faith Bandler interview with Robin Hughes, 1993

A co-founder of the Australian-Aboriginal Fellowship (AAF), Faith Bandler played an important role in the establishment of the national organisation - the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) - which drew together Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders, unions and other community groups. Bandler later played a central role in FCAATSI's successful campaign leading to the milestone 1967 Referendum.

A powerful communicator, 'filled with fire to reach a goal', Bandler has always applied herself with resolve, intelligence and compassion to causes desperately in need of society's attention.

The artwork patterning was designed by Jenuarrie, who shares with Faith Bandler a Pacific Islander heritage.

Lady Jessie Street

Until Aborigines enjoy equal rights, status and opportunity with other Australians, we cannot claim that Australia is a country in which all people enjoy freedom.

Lady Jessie Street Comments on Report from the Select Committee of Voting Rights of Aborigines, 1961.

An internationally respected peace campaigner and community activist, Jessie Street was determined to end racist practices affecting Australia's Indigenous peoples. With Faith Bandler, she played a vital role in establishing the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) and, in 1957, drafted a petition that inspired a crucial ten-year national campaign, culminating in the historic 1967 Referendum. Jessie Street's life and work remind us of the need to embrace both our common humanity and our differences in order to affect lasting social change.

The artwork patterning was designed by Violet Petyarre, who, like Jessie Street, is a community leader.

Dr Evelyn Scott AO

Reconciliation is not an isolated event but part of the fabric of this nation...We extend our hand to other Australians. Those Australians who take our hands are those that dare to dream of an Australia that could be

Dr Evelyn Scott Welcome Address at Corroboree 2000, 2000

For much of her life, Evelyn Scott has been a tireless advocate of social justice for Indigenous peoples across Australia. Scott has devoted herself to the cause of Reconciliation, believing that 'true Reconciliation is critical for this nation if it is to go into the future as a mature, harmonious society at peace with itself'.

Scott was actively involved in the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) and the landmark 'yes'; campaign for the 1967 Referendum. After serving in a variety of community and government positions, she was Chairperson of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation between 1997 and 2000.

The artwork patterning was designed by Thanakupi (Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher), a personal friend of Evelyn Scott.


  • Designers: Belinda Smith, Rob Tindal
  • Graphic designer: Jennifer Marchant

Images (by permission of)

Dr Faith Bandler AM sliver

  • Faith Bandler, Turramurra, 1998: Robert Pearce/ Fairfaxphotos.com: #6111713.
  • Advertisement published in the Australian, 30 October 1969: Masius, Wynne-Williams (Vic).
  • Faith Bandler, Women's Land Army, Wamoon, Leeton, NSW: photographer unknown. Courtesy Faith Bandler.
  • 1967 Referendum celebration, Tranby College, Sydney, 1967: ACP Syndication.
    L-R: Harold Blair, Mrs Faith Bandler, Gordon Bryant, Joe McGinness, FCAATSI conference 1971: Mervyn G. Bishop (photographer). Courtesy AIATSIS, Identity collection #N5718.21.

Dr Evelyn Scott AO sliver

  • Evelyn Scott: Uri Auerbach. Courtesy Evelyn Scott.
  • The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Sydney, 1999: Karen Mork.
  • Evelyn and Allan Scott wedding, Innisfail, 1962: Sydney Balma. Courtesy Evelyn Scott.
  • Cover, Aboriginal Affairs Monthly, volume 1, number 3, October 1974: Mervyn G. Bishop. National Archives of Australia: A8739, A24/8/74/36.
  • Evelyn Scott and daughters, Townsville, 1974: Mervyn G. Bishop. Courtesy Evelyn Scott.

Lady Jessie Street sliver

  • Jessie Street Australian passport photo, 1945: Commonwealth of Australia. National Archives of Australia A6980, S202852.
  • Handwritten draft petition, 1957: Jessie Street. Papers of Jessie Street, National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection, MS2683/11/28.
    Jessie Street and her family, Yulgilbar Station, Grafton, NSW, 1928: Photographer unknown. Courtesy the Street family.
  • Australian delegates, United Nations conference, San Francisco, 1945: photographer unknown. National Library of Australia: nla.pic-an23236247-V
  • Jessie Street, Charles Duguid and an elderly Indigenous man (not named), Point Pearce Mission, 1957: photographer unknown. Papers of Jessie Street, National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection, MS2683/11/30.


  • Dr Faith Bandler AM sliver, Gentle movement, Strong respect
    Artist: Jenuarrie
  • Dr Evelyn Scott AO sliver, Waram (shark)
    Artist: Thanakupi (Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher)
  • Lady Jessie Street sliver, Awelye (body painting)
    Artist: Violet Petyarre


  • Dr Faith Bandler AM sliver: Dr Faith Bandler AM
  • Dr Evelyn Scott AO sliver: Dr Evelyn Scott AO
  • Lady Jessie Street sliver: The Honourable Sir Laurence Street, AC, KCMG, QC

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Artwork 11 - Ruby Florence Hammond PSM

Aboriginal Dreaming sings to us of living in harmony with the land and with each other.

Ruby Florence Hammond PSM 1993

The Ngarrindjeri people of Murrundi (the Lower Murray River) believe the Ponde (the Murray Cod) is a significant aspect of their dreaming. Ruby Hammond, a descendant of Ngarrinderi and Western Arrente, worked tirelessly with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people striving towards understanding and equity for all Australians. Hammond was well-known for singing the song about the sun, the moon and the stars, by her family and many other groups. It is a song about where we all come from.

The artwork has been designed by 'Munnari' John Hammond, Ruby Hammond's son.


Forte, Margaret Flight of an Eagle - The Dreaming of Ruby Hammond, Adelaide SA, Wakefield Press, 1995.

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Artwork 12 - Robert Lee

Take the responsibility and share parts of your country and our living cultures in a good way with fellow Australians and the rest of the world.

Robert Lee, 2003

The Rainbow Serpent is the symbol of Jawoyn and Nitmiluk National Park. It was selected by the Lee family as it portrays the spiritual connection of the late Robert Lee to his land. The image depicts Bolung, the Rainbow Serpent; Nitnit, the cicada; fresh mussels, fish and rocks. Featured wearing a ceremonial headdress, Bolung is associated with the wet season and waterholes. He is not only an important life-giving figure, but may also act as a destroyer. Bolung lives in the deep pools of the second gorge. When fishing, the Jawoyn take only a small portion of their catch and throw the rest back to appease Bolung.

The artist was Alice Mitchell Marrakorlorlo, a traditional owner of Nitmiluk.


Lee, Robert. 'For our children's children: Nitmiluk and economic independence', from a speech given at the Indigenous Economic Development Conference, Alice Springs (NT), 6-7 March 2003. www.indigenousforums.nt.gov.au/dcm/indigenous policy/forums

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Artwork 13 - Wenten Rubuntja AM

...all of us have to live together, look after each other, share this country.

Wenten Rubuntja AM 1988

The Yerrampe Dreaming was passed down to Wenten Rubuntja from his great grandfather and his father's uncle.

The artwork depicts a segment from a larger painting of the Mparntwe (Arrente word for Alice Springs) Dreaming. The artist was Wenten Rubuntja and the image was developed by his son, Mervyn Rubuntja, and Benita Tunks.

Represented are two ayeparenye (caterpillar) women and two yerrampe (honey ant) women. There are also three men - artwe atnyentye (moon man), artwe yerrampe (honey ant man) and arntetherrke (carpet snake man), who are attracted to the women and so paint themselves and sing songs with piripe (music sticks) and call on totemic animals to help.

But the women are not interested and threaten to 'sing them' and make them sick with their superior sacred powers unless they left the women alone.

The dotted lines are the honey ant tracks leading to Aleyape, the honey ant nests in the centre of the image.


Rubuntja, Wenten with Green, Jenny The Town Grew Up Dancing: The Life and Art of Wenten Rubuntja, Alice Springs NT, Jukurrpa Books, 2002.

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Artwork 14 - Land Rights

This artwork incorporates extracts from seminal legal cases on land rights. Terra Nullius (no one’s land) and Terra Aborigium (Aboriginal land) represent the position of native title in Australia before and after the High Court decision in Mabo v Queensland (No.2) (1992). Etched onto glass a map of Meriam Mer (Murray Island – located in the Torres Strait), overlays an image of three plaintiffs in that case: Edward Koiki Mabo, Reverend David Passi and James Rice, and one of their counsel, Bryan Keon-Cohen. Recessed within the artwork is a representation of varying Australian landscapes by Indigenous artist Karen Casey. A thumbprint etched into the stainless steel symbolises the custodial role of Indigenous Australians. On the other side of the artwork are the elements of Country – water, earth and life.


  • Architect: Simon Kringas
  • Aboriginal Cultural Advisor: Sharon Payne
  • Exhibition Designers: Marcus Bree, Benita Tunks
  • Graphic Designer: Alan Vogt

Images (by permission of)

  • Aerial of rivers: Richard Woldendorp
  • Landscape: Karen Casey
  • Murray Islander plaintiffs: Trevor Graham
  • Murray Island and map:Haddon Collection
  • River: Richard Woldendorp
  • River bed: Karen Casey
  • Spirit figures: Karen Casey
  • Thumbprint: Karen Casey


  • Wet to Dry: Rick Rue

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Artwork 15 - Bill Neidjie OAM

This law...this country...this people. No matter what people...red, yellow, black or white...the blood is the same. Lingo little bit different...but no matter. Country - you in other place...But same feeling. Blood...bone...all the same.

Bill Neidjie OAM 1986

Mabuyu was a member of the Bunitj Clan of which the late Bill Neidjie was a respected elder.

According to the Dreamtime story related by Jonathan Nadji there was a warrior called Mabuyu who lived in a cave away from his clan group. The other mob camped at Indjuwandjuwa near Ubirr (Obiri Rock), where the ancient rock painting depicting Mabuyu is in the present-day Kakadu National Park. One day, the clan went fishing but they did not get any. Mabuyu also went fishing. He fished away from the others and caught many fish. He was dragging his catch on a string when a greedy person cut the string and stole his fish. This upset him very much.

That night, Mabuyu waited until the thieves had eaten his fish and were camped inside their cave. He sealed them in their cave with a huge rock. Another mob sent a message to his grandmother's country to tell them what had happened. They made a plan to befriend Mabuyu and invited him to their camp. When he was asleep they sealed him in a cave at a special site around the Mount Borradale area in Western Arnhem Land. Legend has it that Mabuyu is still there.

The image of Bill Neidjie's hand print was designed by his son, Jonathan Nadji. The spirit warrior figure (Mabuyu) is reproduced from an ancient rock painting located at Ubirr (Obiri Rock), Northern Territory.


Neidjie, Big Bill, Davis, Stephen and Fox, Allan Australia's Kakadu Man - Bill Neidjie, Darwin NT, Resource Managers Pty Ltd; 1986.

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Artwork 16 - Gatjil Djerrkura OAM

If we want to break away from the colonial past, and begin anew, then we have to walk together - hand in hand and side by side - as a truly reconciled nation.

Gatjil Djerrkura OAM 2004

The Walatha, or fighting stick, was the totem of the late Gatjil Djerrkura. It is the totem of the Wangurri clan to which he belonged. The late Gatjil Djerrkura inherited his Wangurri clan responsibilities from his father but modelled his philosophy on his maternal grandfather, the warrior chief Wongu, whom he saw as strong in his culture but open to new ideas. Historically, the Wälatha was used by the leaders of the Wangurri clan to restore order and to bring peace. It was also used to pass messages from one clan to another, about ceremonies and other significant community events. With the advent of Christianity, the Wälatha acquired a symbolic meaning denoting peace, Reconciliation and friendship.

The Wälatha image was developed by the Djerrkura family.


Djerrkura, Gatjil. Speech to launch Mark McKenna's This Country: a Reconciled Republic?, Manning Clark House, Canberra, 14 May 2004. 

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Artwork 17 - Wati Jarra Jukurrpa (Two Men Dreaming)

The Pavement Artwork, based on Paddy Japaljarri Stewart’s contemporary Warlpiri painting of the same name, brings the spirit of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory to Reconciliation Place.

The artwork’s rich tapestry of finishes and strong linear character evoke aspects of the Australian landscape.

The bands enclosing the artwork represent Witi (ceremonial) poles which were tied to young Indigenous men’s legs as part of their initiation ceremony. The three circular forms, each set within the earth-like red pavement, represent gatherings of people and stars.

Native grass found throughout the artwork, evocative of many central Australian landscapes, represents the desert bushes which were collected and taken to Yanjirlpiri, the traditional site of the male initiation ceremony.

Artist: Paddy Japaljarri Stewart Pavement
Designers: Cia Flannery Rob Tindal

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