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'Song Cycle of Seven Sisters' Speaks of Diversity in Defence Force

A work by Regional Arts NSW Aboriginal Arts Development Officer and award-winning Aboriginal artist, Anthony Walker, was unveiled on Monday at the Department of Defence Science and Technology headquarters in Canberra.

The unveiling of the commissioned work, Song Cycle of the Seven Sisters, a work on Digi Glass, followed a Welcome to Country from Aunty Agnes Shea, who also assisted with the unveiling with Secretary for Defence, Dennis Richardson and Chief Defence Scientist, Dr Alex Zelinsky.

This commissioning of the artwork was part of a broader Defence Reconciliation Action Plan that aims to attract more Indigenous people to work for Defence. It also aims to educate non-Indigenous staff about the cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of Australia’s traditional custodians.

The unveiling was a mark of respect for cultural diversity within the organisation. It included a performance by the Canberra based Wiradjuri Echoes dance troupe

Song Cycle of the Seven Sisters depicts Gurreng Gurreng people singing up to the Seven Sisters at a turtle nesting site in Mon Repos, Bundaberg. The Seven Sisters (also known as The Pleiades star constellation) safely guide turtles in to shore to lay their eggs, ensuring continued abundance of turtles in the area.

Dr Zelinsky said the artwork’s theme of caring for country reflected Defence’s commitment to building Australia’s defence capability through a collaborative and inclusive workforce.

‘The Defence Science and Technology Group’s core business is creativity and innovation, and this is enhanced by a workforce diverse in backgrounds, thoughts, customs and ideas. We need to reach out and tap into the rich diversity that exists in Australia.

‘Indigenous Australians can add significant value in our workplace, and provide opportunities to explore different approaches to scientific innovation and problem solving.’

Mr Walker said he was delighted to have been commissioned to create an artwork that reflects the spirit of what the Defence Force is aiming to achieve.

‘Defence had come to know my artwork through previous workshops I had run for them. Initially we discussed another painting, but after a collaborative meeting Song Cycle of Seven Sisters was chosen,’ he said.

Mr Walker is an Aboriginal man (Yiman/Gurreng Gurreng), from Queensland,  a visual artist and performer. He spent 15 years working in the Byron Bay region as a teacher, practising artist and gallery owner. Prior to taking up his position at RANSW, Anthony was the Indigenous Arts Development Officer at Arts Northern Rivers, where he was responsible for coordinating and assisting regional Aboriginal artists with projects, art opportunities and professional development.

He has won a number of awards and in 2014 was a finalist in the Parliament of New South Wales Aboriginal Art Prize. He was the winner of the 2007 Byron Bay Marine Visions Art Competition, 2008 Coastal Arts Incentive Award and 2008 Oxfam Australia Aboriginal Reconciliation Art Award and twice winner of the Gold Coast Indigenous Art and Design Award. Visit his website. 

View more images from the unveiling here.