Warning: First Nations Peoples should be aware that this exhibition contains images, voices, or names of deceased persons.
Held as part of Manningham's annual National Reconciliation Week program, Serving Country is an exhibition that recognises and acknowledges the valuable contribution of Australian First Nations servicemen and servicewomen who have served, or are serving, in the Australian Defence Force.
For more than a century, First Nations Australians have had a long and proud history of serving in the defence of our nation in many theatres, from South Africa to the present day. Exact numbers are not known of how many First Nations Australians men and women served our nation, as official defence policy in the first half of the twentieth century was aimed at excluding the enlistment of persons “not substantially of European origin or descent”. The fact that they served at all at a time when they were denied the basic rights of citizenship is significant – a situation not fully corrected until the 1970s.
The Serving Country photographic exhibition shares the lived experiences of Australian First Nations families and individuals who have proudly served and continue to serve in Australia’s Defence Force.
Many returning veterans are still living with the trauma of their experiences in the battlefield. Serving Country serves as a platform for sharing stories, both inspiring and devastating, of courage and mateship. Sharing stories plays a vital and healing role in Australian First Nations culture.
Serving Country is the creative work of Sydney-based human rights social documentarian and Creative Director of Blur Projects, Belinda Mason and videographer Dieter Knierim. There are currently over 200 photographed portraits printed on brushed aluminium 60cm x 40cm panels and continues to grow.
Installation view, Manningham Art Gallery. Photo by Charlie Kinross.