Artwork unites stories of conflict

Australian Army officer Commanding Officer Defence School of Intelligence (DSI) Lieutenant Colonel Alana Burkitt (right) and Uncle Allan Charles Lena of Bundjalung Nation stand beside Uncle Allan's artwork commisioned by DSI, at Kokoda Barracks.

The Defence School of Intelligence (DSI) has unveiled an Indigenous artwork that unites stories of conflicts under a single banner.

DSI Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Alana Burkitt said the artwork helped tell Defence’s stories and those of First Nations more openly.

“It’s important we understand the history of Wangerriburra land and respect the customs and traditions of the people connected to the land we share, meet, work, live and train on,” she said.

Canungra Law

Uncle Allan Charles Lena, of Bundjalung Nation, painted the artwork.

He was identified and granted permission by community elders, on behalf of the Wangerriburra people, of the Yugambeh language group.

Central to the artwork is a mibunn, a wedge-tailed eagle, a totem of the Bundjalung Nation.

“The mibunn flies over the nation and my people, keeping us safe from sunrise to sunset, as do our people of the Australian Defence Force,” Uncle Allan writes, in his artist’s didactic.

Above the eagle is an Australian soldier, back to back with a First Nations warrior “looking out for each other, protecting our land together”.

It honours the “teams of brave males and females, black and white, who courageously come together in friendship, to protect this land, our families [and] our way of life,” he writes.

Screen printed onto aluminium and measuring 3.6 metres wide and 1.5 metres high, the artwork sits at the entrance to the school.

“It’s a powerful, tangible reminder that puts reconciliation at the forefront of our people’s minds when they enter DSI and reminds us all of our connection to country – whether we identify as Indigenous or not,” Lieutenant Colonel Burkitt said.

“It’s an acknowledgement of the histories and cultures of the First Peoples of this land and represents a commitment toward a shared, collaborative future.”