Media and Communications Office
An unveiling of three five-metre-high mosaic murals, one of which was created to commemorate Indigenous soldiers at war, brought together a gathering of St Pius X students, war veterans along with Indigenous family and local community which took place at Austin Hospital’s Repatriation centre in Heidelberg West as part of this week’s Remembrance Day events.
The unveiling comes after many months of work by local artist Simon Normand along with local St Pius X primary school students; two of whom are direct descendants of soldiers Chris Saunders and Frederick Lovett who are depicted in the pieces.
The morning was attended by the Saunders family including his great-great-grandchildren and the Lovett family. ‘These murals have a strong message with a myriad of stories of people who went before,’ said Sue Shilbury the CEO of Austin Hospital in her welcome speech.
The morning began with an official welcome to country by Jackie Wonder who herself has Wurundjeri roots and thanked the Saunders and Lovett family for their attendance.
The morning continued with a speech by the artist Simon Normand who collaborated with the children of St Pius X primary school to create the masterpiece. ‘It’s been a long time coming to get something to acknowledge the sacrifice Indigenous soldiers in Victoria,’ explained Simon.
‘It’s one of the most important things I’ve done, so I’m glad that it’s got pride of place opposite Remembrance Garden,’ he said.
‘I’m glad to have got something done about nursing in World War I and World War II, because the nurses are often forgotten for their amazing sacrifice in those wars.’
The other two murals included mosaic impressions of high-ranked nurse Grace Wilson who as the mural reads ‘after a distinguished career spanning both World Wars, became the first female to be awarded life membership of the RSL’ and the other is dedicated to Greece’s assistance to accommodate the sick and wounded in Gallipoli.
The St Pius X school members of The Boîte, comprising of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children of various multicultural backgrounds came together as a chorus to sing a touching array of songs sung by Indigenous families during the war from different parts of Australia.
The morning concluded with a morning tea and a presentation of a pull-up replica of the Indigenous mosaic to the children of the school, a gift to Margaret Miles to take back to the War Widows Guild and the Saunders and Lovett family and Gundijmara people, including a replica mosaic for Aunty Laura of her father who as part of the Lovett brothers served both World Wars despite not being regarded Australian citizens.
School principal of St Pius X, Barbara Gomez spoke of the importance of community spirit in Catholic education which contributed to the outcome of this special remembrance morning. ‘It’s about creating connections and allowing our Indigenous kids that space to connect.’