In Remembrance: School mural creates lasting legacy to Indigenous soldiers

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Media and Communications Office

In a breezy (and, these days, quite chilly) corridor at St Pius X Primary School in Melbourne’s Heidelberg West, school principal Barbara Gomez and parish priest Fr Wayne Edwards are working in a collaboration with local artist, sculptor and muralist Simon Normand to create a five-metre-high tribute to the role Indigenous Australians have played in Australia’s wars.

The mural, along with two other murals depicting the role of nurses in WWI and WWII, will be unveiled on Remembrance Day this November, and will take pride of place at the entrance of Heidelberg’s Repatriation Hospital.

Assisting artist Simon Normand are the children of Pius X Primary, who are working with Simon busily right through these winter months to complete their five-metre contribution to Australia's history!

Barbara Gomez was excited to share with us her own excitement when it was discovered that two of the children involved in the project happen to be direct descendants of the two Indigenous soldiers depicted in the mural. Tiana Matthews (pictured below) is the direct descendant of Chris Saunders, whose image is the primary one on Simon Normand’s massive work, while Grade 4 boy Jonah Cadd is the great-great-grandson of the other Indigenous soldier currently being rendered in tiles at St Pius X, Frederick Lovett.

Simon Normand has been the Artist in Residence at the Austin Hospital for over 20 years. He plans to complete the mosaics in time for their installation by crane in early November. Simon has a long history of working with Indigenous groups in Arnhem Land NT and in Victoria and creating large public artworks. His most recent exhibition was at Parliament House in Darwin in 2017 about explorer Ludwig Leichhardt and his 1844 journey around the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The Heidelberg Repat mosaic banner project is timed to be unveiled on 9 November this year, and to be installed on the walls overlooking the Remembrance Garden at the Repatriation Hospital as part of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. St Pius X Primary is working on the mosaic that honours Victorian Aboriginals and their involvement in the First World War through the stories of the Lovett Brothers and Chris Saunders, Gundijmara families from the Western district.

Reg Saunders (1920-1990) was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army.

Frederick Lovett (1887-1958) was awarded two service medals.
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