Stolen Generations Marker artist announced

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Reko Rennie standing at a table with artwork he is working on around him
Photo: Roger D’Souza

Yarra City Council is pleased to announce that it has commissioned internationally renowned artist Reko Rennie to produce a major public artwork paying tribute to the Stolen Generations.

Yarra Mayor, Cr Daniel Nguyen said the project is a collaboration between the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the council, which has been more than two years in the making.

“We are delighted to have an artist the calibre of Reko Rennie bringing our community’s vision for a permanent public artwork honouring the Stolen Generations to life.

“The artwork will acknowledge the deep pain and sadness experienced by the Stolen Generations and their families, as well as acknowledge the resilience and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” he said.

The artwork will comprise a number of bronze spears and a coolamon (a bark vessel traditionally used to carry babies), with accompanying seating, lighting and landscaping. It will be located on the grounds of the Atherton Gardens Housing Estate in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.

Concept art of the Stolen Generations Marker in Atherton Gardens, Fitzroy. 

Fitzroy is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the Aboriginal civil rights movement in Victoria. This location, known as ‘the Meeting Place’ has state-wide significance as a place where people from all over Victoria who had been forcibly removed from their families came to find and reconnect with family.

“The idea for a public artwork commemorating the Stolen Generations came from our local Aboriginal community and was prioritised in our Aboriginal Partnerships Plan 2015-2018.

“We have been working closely with a Steering Group comprising representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations, including people who are part of the Stolen Generations.

“It has been a privilege to work with this group, who have guided the whole process from the outset. We are proud and humbled to be able to deliver important public artwork on their behalf for their community, as well as the wider community.

“The artwork and surrounding garden will be a place for our community to gather and reflect. It will also be a beautiful tribute and a celebration of Aboriginal strength and culture.” Cr Nguyen said.  

Statement from artist Reko Rennie

“My vision for the Stolen Generations Marker 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.

The Marker will consist of a collection of bronze spears and a coolamon with accompanying seating, lighting and landscaping, combined to create a poignant dialogue with the existing use of the park as a meeting place that symbolises community resilience, identity and family. The spears and seating will be positioned in a ceremonial ring, creating 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 the layers of history and stories connected to the site. The coolamon symbolises the connection between mothers and their children. Each spear will be sculpted through a casting process that will capture the handmade nature of traditional Aboriginal wood and fibre spears. The bronze stems of the spears will be finished with a range of subtle patinas and the spearheads will be detailed in with cast perforations. 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.

The Marker’s design will consider the Aboriginal history of the site and the area’s present role as a significant public and memorial space by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land upon which Atherton Gardens now sits. Signage will be included educating visitors about the history of the Stolen Generations.”

Project partners

Wurundjeri Tribe Council, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Connecting Home, Link-Up Victoria. 

Project funding

Yarra Council has committed $102,000 towards the Stolen Generations Marker.

The Victorian State Government (Aboriginal Victoria, Department of Premier and Cabinet) has provided a $50,000 grant.

The Myer Foundation donation $10,000

Link-Up Victoria grant $2,500

Community fundraising campaign

The community has shown its support for the project, generously contributing over $44,000 in donations. Fundraising activities included:

  • Australian Cultural Fund campaign (which includes a $2,500 donation from the Wurundjeri Council) - $8,809.59
  • Stolen Generations Marker fundraising gig featuring Dan Sultan and guests at the Croxton Bandroom - $20,321
  • Reconciliation Comedy Gala Fundraiser at the Malthouse Theatre - $15,409



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