Stolen Generations Marker: Remember Me by Reko Rennie

 Uncle Colin Hunter Welcome to Country

Image: Reko Rennie, Remember Me, 2018. Installation view at the launch with Uncle Colin Hunter pictured. Photo by Nicole Cleary.   

The Stolen Generations Marker, Remember Me, reflects the community’s wish to create a permanent tribute to the Stolen Generations and their families; a place of reflection and respectful commemoration. Integral to this is the surrounding garden with plants local to the area that have been re-introduced into the setting. 

Sited at the historically important Meeting Place in the heart of Aboriginal Fitzroy, the artwork honours not only the story of this place, but of all Aboriginal people who were taken away. 

Remember Me will stand as a reminder of the ongoing impacts of past racist government policies on the Aboriginal community today, and is intended to honour the struggles of the Stolen Generations as well as acknowledge the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, communities, clans and groups who seek to heal from the past. 

This space is a place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as well as non-Aboriginal communities to gather, rest, remember and reflect. A special place to be honoured, cared for and respected by all of us.

Kamilaroi artist Reko Rennie’s vision is an inclusive environment where people can sit and peacefully reflect on, mourn and acknowledge the deep trauma of the past, as well as connect with the ongoing strength and resilience of the Aboriginal community and support the process of healing.

Remember Me is a collection of bronze spears and a coolamon with accompanying seating, lighting and landscaping that symbolises community resilience, identity and family. Positioned in a ceremonial ring, the seating and spears create a circle of gathering and remembrance within the park. In a contemporary and historical sense, the spear is an emblematic statement about struggle and adversity, and it is also an expression of identity and connection to land and culture.

Uncle Colin Hunter (Wurundjeri Elder) notes that the site at Atherton Gardens was swamp and hunting land before colonisation, and the use of the spear aims to reference these layers of history and stories. The coolamon symbolises the connection between mothers and their children. The spear represents the battles of the past and present, the coolamon represents family, and the ceremonial ring formation of the marker creates a contemplative space to meet, reflect, and connect.

This project was guided by the Stolen Generations Marker Steering Group and realised by Yarra City Council in partnership with the Victorian Government. Most importantly, it has received widespread grassroots community support.

Remember Me was officially launched on the 20th anniversary of National Sorry Day: 26 May 2018. National Sorry Day acknowledges the impact of the policies spanning more than 150 years of forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

On 26 May 1997 the landmark Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Federal Parliament. The report was the result of a national inquiry that investigated the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families. This was a pivotal moment for many Stolen Generations. It was the first time the stories of forced removal were formally acknowledged by the Government and a recognition that these actions were inhumane. The impacts have been lifelong and intergenerational. 

Reko Rennie is a Melbourne interdisciplinary artist who explores his Aboriginal identity through contemporary mediums. Rennie’s art incorporates his association to the Kamilaroi people, using traditional geometric patterning that represents his community. Through his art, Rennie provokes discussion surrounding Indigenous culture and identity in contemporary urban environments. He has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally.