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Stolen Generations memorial space unveiled

A memorial to Australia’s Stolen Generations has been unveiled in the city’s East End.

Sep 14, 2023, updated Sep 14, 2023
Artist Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie's sculpture is the centrepiece of the Place of Reflection. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

Artist Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie's sculpture is the centrepiece of the Place of Reflection. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

The “Place of Reflection”, in a parklet on East Tce between Pirie and Grenfell streets, is a dedicated space for members of the Stolen Generation to connect and support each other in the city.

Designed and landscaped to highlight the links between nature and the cultural lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the space is both public art and a gathering place.

The Stolen Generations refers to decades of state-sanctioned forced removal of Indigenous children from their families.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies says it’s difficult to estimate the exact number of removed children, but that in some families children from three or more generations were taken.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised in Parliament for the forced displacement of Indigenous children – a “blemished chapter in our national history” he said in his famous 2008 ‘Sorry’ speech.

The ‘Place of Reflection’ meditates on this period with a bronze sculpture of a life-size mother figure cradling her arms, with her posture suggesting a void left by a missing child.

The sculpture was created by renowned Ngarrindjerri weaver Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie and South Australian designer Karl Meyer.

“This is a place for the nation to participate and reflect on the past and understand the pain of the stolen generation,” said artist Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie.

“It’s also a place for the Stolen Generation and for the future generations to heal and feel safe, where they can share stories, and feel together with the ones they lost or were taken away from.”

In his speech at the unveiling, Meyer said it was a “true privilege” to work on the space.

“This has been an important and significant journey to launch this artwork,” Meyer said.

“It has been a true privilege to engage and hear from First Nations organisations and people over the past few years, listening to their stories and working together to give them this place, bringing it to life and creating a place for community.

“We would also like to invite organisations and community members to use this space for events, as a place to stop, and a place to reflect. Importantly, this is a place to remember, to pay respects, to heal and to mend.”

Artist Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie with her sculpture. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

The space also includes some seating, and the landscaping prioritises native reeds and rushes.

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Mounted in the centre of the site is a steel Coolamon (a traditional Indigenous vessel normally used to carry water, fruit, nuts and to cradle babies) placed on a circular black granite boulder to enable fire smoking and ceremonial activities to happen at the site.

It is hoped that the Coolamon will be utilised for community and cultural events, such as Sorry Day.

Lord Mayor Jane-Lomax Smith said the ‘Place of Reflection’ was “a particularly special place, to promote recovery and reconciliation”.

“The Place of Reflection will create a high-profile piece of public art in the City, which we hope will acknowledge the loss and help the healing process for members of the Stolen Generations, their families, friends and the wider community,” she said.

“Importantly, it will give the community of people a dedicated and safe space to meet, reflect and support each other.

“The design is a powerful statement and I hope this memorial will start conversations to help educate future generations about the previous loss and ongoing pain of these practices.”

Designer Karl Meyer, Lord Mayor Jane-Lomax Smith, artist Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie and Aboriginal affairs minister Kyam Maher at the Place of Reflection unveiling. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

The $265,000 memorial has been constructed over the past four months and was funded by the City of Adelaide and State Government.

“The grief and loss experienced by members of the Stolen Generations, their families and communities had a lasting and intergenerational impact that continues to this day,” Aboriginal affairs minister Kyam Maher said.

“The Place of Reflection will be an important place of healing for all those who have been affected as well as provide a public acknowledgement of the pain and suffering Stolen Generations policies have caused, helping all South Australians move forward together.”

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