The National Capital Authority recognises that Reconciliation Place is established on the traditional land of the Ngunnawal people and acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land the Capital is built on, paying respect to elders both past and present.
*This walk includes names and images of people who are now deceased. Any distress this may cause is sincerely regretted.
Experience a self-guided walking tour exploring the Reconciliation Place, a lasting symbol of our shared journey.
Physically and symbolically located at the heart of Australian democratic and cultural life within Canberra’s Parliamentary Zone, this symbolic area recognises the importance of understanding the shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Open to individual interpretation and reflection, the pathway and artworks along it tell the story of progress towards becoming a reconciled nation.
1. FIRE AND WATER BY JUDY WATSON
This work includes The Hearthstone, symbolic of the Yuriarra Moth Stone located at nearby Uriarra Station, which was a base camp for the ceremonial trek to catch Bogong (Gori) moths. Feasting on the moths brought groups together to hunt, gather and renew relationships. Beginning at the hearthstone, the artwork also includes a gathering stone, a bower and a misting water element. Together these explore the most basic shared needs of all humans: water, food, shelter and warmth.
2. METHALU THARRI (SMOOTH SAILING) BY VIC MCGRATH
Inspired by the sails and mast of a beached Torres Strait Islands’ canoe, this artwork includes a calendar of traditional activities and constellations featuring the Southern Cross. Torres Strait Islanders see their mythical hero Tagai in these stars, standing in his canoe with his fishing spear raised. This artwork reflects our shared experience of the earth’s seasons and stars, reinforcing that it is only our storytelling of these that differ.
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. Whilst some were given up by their parents seeking a better life for their children, many others were forcibly removed and are now referred to as the ‘Stolen Generations.’ Many of these children experienced overwhelming grief and the loss of childhood, innocence, family relationships, identity, language, culture, country and spirituality. This is symbolised by the ripples in water reflecting the devastation on whole communities.
3. ARTWORK 1
An image of a lone boy and the placement of an empty coolamon (used to carry babies) are a counterpoint to the display of various words for ‘children’ in numerous Indigenous languages.
4. ARTWORK 2
The rusted finish on this artwork is reflective of the iconic red dirt of central Australia. The holes offer visitors an opportunity to make their story part of the journey and of the healing process. Words from or about members of the Stolen Generations also appear on the map of Australia.
5. KWI’ITH, MAN AND WOMAN YAM BY DR. GLORIA FLETCHER (THANCOUPIE)
The long yam and the cheeky yam, rendered as large bronze shapes, are traditional symbols for man and woman in Thancoupie’s culture. The artist’s thumb and finger marks encourage visitors to touch and explore, while the evocative words in the base of the artwork suggest a way forward for everyone involved in the process of Reconciliation – simple, powerful and inclusive.
6. STRENGTH, SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
Australians unite in times of conflict, when social and cultural divisions seem less important. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have served in both world wars and three notable figures from the Second World War are depicted on one face of this artwork: Captain Reg Saunders, Sedo Gebade and Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal). Australians also unite over their love of sport, reflected through the images of Olympic gold medallist, Cathy Freeman, and the first Australian cricket team to tour England (1868).
Ngunna yerrabi yanggu - You’re welcome to leave your footprints on our land – is a traditional welcome to Ngunnawal country given by local elders. This artwork features a Wedgetail eagle, symbolic of their traditional high country and an artistic interpretation of the migratory patterns of the Bogong Moth.
Social change comes from action – whether within the existing ‘system’ or in opposition to it. The first Indigenous Senator in Australian Parliament, Neville Bonner, worked from within. His side of this artwork includes a carpet snake, his totem. The other side celebrates Vincent Lingiari who led his people in a walk-off at Wave Hill Station, widely remembered as the start of the Aboriginal Land Rights Movement. This side also includes a timeline of photographs relating to the campaign for Land Rights.
The Australian Constitution can only be changed with the agreement of the majority of voters through a referendum. To date, 44 referenda have been held since Federation but only eight have been successful. The 1967 Referendum, which proposed to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth government to make laws for Aboriginal people, received the highest positive response of all of these. The large photograph included in this artwork shows delegates to the Federal Council for Advancement of the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI).
10. WOMEN ARTWORK
These artworks celebrate the perseverance and courage of three remarkable women and remind visitors of their collective contribution to Reconciliation in Australia, including their roles in the 1967 Referendum. On the ground between the individual artworks are evocative words embodying qualities and values considered important to all three women, which could also inspire visitors to participate in the Reconciliation process. Both Faith Bandler (2015) and Evelyn Scott (2017) have passed since the creation of this artwork.
11. WATI JARRA JUKURRPA (TWO MEN DREAMING)
This artworks is an interpretive landscape based on the contemporary Warlpiri painting of the same name by Paddy Japaljarri Stewart. The bands enclosing the artwork represent Witi – ceremonial poles which were tied to young men’s legs as part of their initiation ceremony. The three circular forms, each set within a red pavement, represent gatherings of people and stars.
12. LAND RIGHTS
This artwork incorporates extracts from seminal legal cases on Land Rights and an etched map of Meriam Mer (Murray Island), overlaid with images of three plaintiffs in that case. A thumbprint and the Latin words ‘Terra Nullius’ and ‘Terra Aboriginum’ evoke both the superseded view of an empty land and the custodial role of Indigenous Australians. Various Australian landscapes and the elements of Country (water earth and life) are also represented.
THE STONE ARTWORKS
These stones celebrate the resilience and achievements of eminent Indigenous Australians who have made personal contributions to Reconciliation and to our Australian story, through their selfless dedication to the advancement of Indigenous Australians and building bridges with the wider community. Each artwork includes illustrative carvings and an inspirational quote on Reconciliation which can guide all visitors into the future.
13. RUBY FLORENCE HAMMOND
The Murray cod is significant to the Ngarrindjeri people and Ruby was known for singing the song about the sun, moon and stars which tells where we all come from.
14. ROBERT LEE
The rainbow serpent (shown wearing a ceremonial headdress) represents Robert’s spiritual connection to his land. Known as Bolung, the serpent is both a life-giver and destroyer.
15. WENTEN RUBUNTJA
The artwork depicts a section of a larger painting done by Wenten of Mparntwe Dreaming. Two caterpillar women and two honey ant women reject the showy advances of a moon man, a honey ant man and a carpet snake man.
16. BILL NEIDJIE
The spirit warrior figure (Mabbuyu) is reproduced from an ancient rock painting located at Ubirr (Obiri Rock) in Kakadu National Park, of which Bill was a traditional owner. He was a respected elder of the Bunitj Clan.
17. GATJIL DJERRKURA
The Wälatha (fighting stick) 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.
What message will we pass to Australians of the future?