Memorial for Indigenous service wins ACT’s top architecture prize

The sculptural pavilion commemorating the military service and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, For our Country, has won the highest award at the 2020 ACT Architecture Awards.

The pavilion, which sits in the Sculpture Gardens of the Australian War Memorial, was named winner of the Canberra Medallion – recognised as the territory’s top architecture award – as well as being awarded the Cynthia Breheny Award for Small Project Architecture, the Pamille Berg Award for Art in Architecture, and the Robert Foster Award for Light in Architecture.

Unveiled in March 2019, For our Country was designed by proud Kudjala/Gangalu/Kuku Yalanji/Waka Waka/Gubbi Gubbi/Wangerriburra/Bandjalung man Daniel Boyd in collaboration with Edition Office. It presents a space in which to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Australia’s defence forces.

Director of the Australian War Memorial Mr Matt Anderson said For our Country was deserving of the Canberra Medallion.

“Indigenous Australians have served for Australia in every conflict and peacekeeping operation in which we have engaged,” Mr Anderson said.

“They have played a vital role in the history of the Australian defence forces; one which has long deserved greater recognition.

“For our Country is just one part of the Australian War Memorial’s effort to properly recognise the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our defence forces. It is wonderful that the Australian Institute of Architects have considered it a worthy recipient of this prestigous award.”

ACT jury chair Marcus Graham said the project carries “an enormous weight of significance” despite its physical size.

“For Our Country reflects honestly upon a complex history, and looks forward to greater cultural understanding,” Mr Graham said.

For our Country features a pavilion set behind a ceremonial fire pit. Behind this is a wall of two-way mirrored glass that reflects the viewer and the Memorial.

At the centre of the sculpture is a soil vessel where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations across Australia are invited to deposit soil from their Country. Artist Daniel Boyd intended that each Nation be commemorated in this place, where a piece of Country joins the lands that the ancestors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have defended, and from which they came to serve Australia.

/Public Release. View in full here.