In April this year, the Royal Australian Mint launched a brand new $2 coin commemorating the military service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The incredible design is by Indigenous artist Chern’ee Sutton. The proud Kalkadoon woman is renowned for her distinctive style which merges her traditional Aboriginal heritage and modern contemporary art. She’s become successful nationally and internationally, having worked with Commonwealth Games and exhibited in Hong Kong, Singapore and London (Chern’ee, 2021). In an interview with the National Indigenous Times (2021) Sutton says it’s been a very meaningful project to work on:
“To have one [a coin] that specifically represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is very, very special.”
Indigenous military Service Coin. Courtesy of Australian Post, 2021.
The coin design features a black handprint to represent First Nations people while the three rows of dots are colours of the defence force’s tri-service flag. The background of the artwork depicts soldiers leaving their communities, going to war. Then there is a boomerang and footprint representing them returning home and stepping back onto their land (Smit, 2021). Sutton spent much time creating the artwork, being careful to accurately represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service personnel, their journeys and the conflicts that they fought in. It is hoped that this coin will get Australians thinking about the service of Indigenous military personnel and reflect on the sacrifices that they’ve made. It is an opportunity for all Australian’s acknowledge the sacrifices of these incredible service people. In an interview with the National Indigenous Times (2021) Royal Australian Mint CEO Leigh Gordon recognises their contribution:
“with this coin, the Royal Australian Mint acknowledges and celebrates Indigenous Australia’s longstanding tradition of serving in the military.”
Indigenous military Service Coin Full Artwork. Courtesy of ABC News, 2021.
This coin is hugely important as many Australians have little to no knowledge about the crucial role that First Nations people have played in all of Australia’s conflicts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have served in the air, at sea and by horseback. For many their time in the defence force for many was their first time being treated as equals. Yet horribly once they returned home the discrimination and prejudice continued. They were denied employment and the benefits offered to other returning service personnel (AIATSIS, 2021). If you would like to learn more about First Nations peoples service, take a look at our post “Remembrance Day From An Indigenous Perspective”.
It’s so important that we are finally taking further steps to acknowledge the service of Indigenous peoples through the beauty and meaning of Chern’ee Sutton beautiful artwork. Keep your eyes peeled for these amazing new coins and be sure to talk to your friends and family about the coins' meaning and importance.