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Memorial to the Undeclared War, Queensland

Part 2 Project 2000
Timothy Bennetton
Queensland University of Technology Brisbane | Australia
'memorial to the undeclared war, queensland'

the brief for this project: 'an aboriginal memorial'. implications of the past, memory, aboriginality. the overall story has not ended. this memorial is one chapter that remembers those - whether of us or not of us - that died fighting for queensland soil.

in over 100 years, 20 000 people died in direct conflict, 90% indigenous, half of australia's total in queensland. stories surrounding indigenous deaths seemed largely anonymous, a weight of numbers without names, leaving no mark in colonial history.

the site chosen was queens park, brisbane. beneath the park lie the back of house facilities that service the new functions of the old buildings. the memorial is a single chamber, built into one storeroom, without interruption to the functions of the casino and hotel. underground, the focus is on two pillars, two poems, our history.

queens park reflects in built form one view of the past: neat, geometric surrounded by glorious facades, a legacy of colonial proprieties. queen victoria stands as the foccussed symbol of justice and power. the memorial is intended to question, destabilise, perhaps shatter this view.

an overall grief for humanity - where the victims are not all good and the aggressors not all bad - the underlying theme is that an individual must choose their own path. it is ordinary people that choose to accept, support or challenge injustice and misery.

Timothy Bennetton

Designing a Memorial to Australian Aboriginal Wars: The Politics of a very 'Black' History

Tim Bennetton was one of three students who deliberately chose to design a Memorial to Australian Aboriginal wars, a project I tutored, in early 1999. Informed by Ken Inglis's book Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape, Tim searched for a way of addressing Australia's 'black' history. His project did so through a design that dealt with Australian landscapes rather than the traditional notion of the memorial as 'object'.

What began as a genuine empathy for the subject, quickly emerged as a dangerous political debate. Local aborigines suggested the students use the 'materials of white men', steel, brick or concrete. Others defied the very notion of 'reconciliation', scorning the ideology. Influential local historian, Professor Henry Reynolds' involvement was crucial. He told the story of one 'memorial' he was aware of. To a statue devoted to three men killed in the Kimberley, the community responded by inscribing on the backside, the story of aboriginal deaths. Two stories on one memorial.

At times during the evolution of the design, Tim explored the notion of an impermanent memorial, one that could be moved around the country. Its path would be mapped and at each point of its placement, the 'black' stories of that place would be collected and moved on. This design was a ritual of collecting aboriginal history. It was an 'active' memorial for people and places to engage with that began in Queens Park.

Queens Park is a site in Brisbane's central business district marked by a statue of Queen Victoria, with a parking undercroft used by the neighbouring casino. In an attempt to explore the notion of a permanent memorial, Tim chose to reclaim the space under the park as 'memory space'. Within this space, accessible by anyone at any time, were stories of 'black' history. The space was for contemplation. Underneath Queen Victoria's story would be the other side of the story.

Tim's project is a profoundly important design. It grapples with the politics of Australia's 'black' history with a genuine sensitivity. It provides spaces in the landscape for contemplation, learning and story telling, some we want to hear, many that we do not.

• Page Hits: 3270         • Entry Date: 09 February 2000         • Last Update: 10 May 2001