Brendan Nelson says national resting place for indigenous remains should be focal point for Australia Day



He got the idea while visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier early one morning, wondering if the man inside might be indigenous, and looking through the “powerfully symbolic man-made view” that connects the war memorial. and the Parliament, which includes the Embassy tent.

“Now is the time, with a sense of holiness and dignity, that we create an enclosure, in the center of which could be the tomb of the guardians or unknown guardians, or a place of rest, which would complete the picture,” he said. -he declares. “A very, very visible and practical reminder of the enormous contribution made by the early Australians to this nation.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Anzac Day 2021.Credit:Alex ellinghausen

Dr. Nelson envisions a monument with a “substantial footprint” using granite, marble and other stones from across the country. In addition to the resting place for the remains, he believes it should represent massacres and violence against indigenous peoples, the 1967 referendum, the Mabo decision and the 2008 apology, and feature key indigenous figures.

Such a place could then become the focal point of a culture change around the Australian Day commemorations.

“It must be a day that begins with solemnity… around reflecting on and celebrating Indigenous life, history and culture, and the impact that the events of Arthur Phillip arriving on January 26 are having. had on indigenous peoples, â€Dr. Nelson mentioned.


“The centerpiece of a major event early in the morning of the 26th would be the internment of those remains that had returned during the previous year. And then after that event, then we go into our citizenship ceremonies, later in the day we move on to our sport, our parties, our celebration of who we are now. “

The existing Reconciliation Place was commissioned by then Prime Minister John Howard in 2000. It consists of a small grassy hill in the Canberra Parliament-Memorial axis and 17 works of art from each. side that commemorate the stolen generation and mark important cultural events, people and practices.

Boe Spearim, a man from Gamilaraay and Kooma, and creator and host of the Frontier War Stories podcast, said a monument was “much needed” as part of the dialogue about our past.

He believed the proposed project should include tales of Indigenous resistance to colonialism and how the remains of the warriors were taken by the British and sold to the highest bidder. He said all words were empty without responsibility, such as references to atrocities and genocide.

He would also prefer that Anzac Day or Remembrance Day, rather than Australia Day, be used as the focal point for the monument, in order to recognize the same “sacredness and sacrifice of the Aboriginal soldiers. that we are doing it for those who fought in the Boer War and the World War. I and II â€.

Richard Frankland, a man from Gunditjmara, filmmaker, author and professor of interdisciplinary arts at Deakin University, also supported the proposal but was not sure it should be linked to Australia Day.

“I think any kind of recognition of our past, in real context and not in a nursery version of history, is vital for us to mature as a nation,” said Professor Frankland.

“There will be people who will be against it, but it is an embryonic idea to facilitate a big change. I think Australia is at a crossroads where we can recognize our past in a more humanistic way than we have, moving us away from moral bankruptcy.


Labor spokesperson on Indigenous Australians Linda Burney is open to discussing Dr Nelson’s plan, noting that the opposition has taken a similar proposal for a national resting place for the 2019 election.

“Australia is a modern and complex nation with an equally complex and difficult past,†she said.

“Who we are as a nation and as a people, what our values ​​are and what we believe in, has changed over time and will continue to change. It’s important that we take all of this complexity and change into account when we take a day to reflect on what it means to be Australia, and the Australian, in modern times.

Liberal backbench Andrew Bragg, who has written a book advocating for reconciliation and constitutional recognition, called Reconciliation Place modest and says it is inconceivable that there is no important building in the parliamentary triangle reflecting the culture and history of indigenous peoples.

He wants the government to commit to funding the Ngurra cultural enclosure and the national resting place before next year’s elections.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has been contacted for comment.

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