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Australian War MemorialIn a profound tribute to a century of service and sacrifice, the Australian War Memorial has unveiled a captivating new sculpture by Waradgerie artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey. This contemporary masterpiece, marking 100 years of Legacy’s unwavering support to veterans’ families, is a poignant symbol of cultural strength and continuity.

The sculpture, a commission supported by Legacy Australia, assembles 100 coolamons, each crafted from reclaimed metal. Coolamons, traditional bush bowls of Indigenous Australians, serve as versatile tools for food preparation and resource sharing. This selection of material and form by Connelly-Northey is no mere artistic choice; it’s a deeply rooted cultural statement. “These coolamons represent the nurturing role of Aboriginal soldiers and protectors of our Country,” the artist expressed, “each symbolizing a year in Legacy’s rich history.”

This artwork does more than adorn the Memorial’s halls; it weaves a narrative of resilience and care, often overlooked in historical accounts. It celebrates Indigenous women – soldiers, mothers, wives, daughters, aunties, and cousins – who have played a critical role in sustaining families and preserving kinship ties, especially in times of war and loss.

Matt Anderson, the Director of the Australian War Memorial, emphasizes the significance of this acquisition. “Bringing this work into the National Collection,” he states, “serves as a powerful reminder of Legacy’s promise to care for the families of our veterans.”

Connelly-Northey’s use of salvaged materials, often linked to European settlement and industrialization, is a profound commentary. By transforming these elements through Indigenous weaving techniques and cultural motifs, she reclaims a narrative often lost in the shadows of colonization.

Laura Webster, Head of Art at the Memorial, underscores Connelly-Northey’s artistic importance. “As one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, her work enriches our National Collection, highlighting the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children affected by war.”

The 100 coolamons in the sculpture radiate an array of hues and textures reminiscent of the diverse soils of Waradgerie Country. This rich palette speaks volumes of Indigenous communities’ deep connection with their land, a bond often strained but never severed by the ravages of conflict.

Legacy Chairman Eric Easterbrook, OAM, reflects on the sculpture’s more profound meaning. “This piece embodies the essence of Legacy’s centennial mission and partnership with the Australian War Memorial. It’s a striking embodiment of our commitment to honouring and supporting those who have served.”

Legacy’s roots trace back to the aftermath of the First World War, born from a solemn promise to aid the families of fallen and injured service members. A century later, Legacy continues this mission, providing essential support to over 40,000 partners and children of veterans.

Significant benefactors, including the John and Anna Belfer Trust and the Wesley and Sari Browne family, played a pivotal role in making this artistic tribute a reality. “Our involvement,” they shared, “stems from a deep connection with Legacy and our enduring respect for those who have served.”

In the Australian War Memorial galleries, Connelly-Northey’s sculpture is an artistic triumph and a living testament to the enduring spirit of care, resilience, and community that Legacy and Australia’s Indigenous heritage embody. It’s a vivid reminder of the unbroken chain of support that stretches across a century, honouring the past while nurturing the future.




Written by: Anne Keam