7 March 2024

NCA commissions statue of trailblazing senator

| Ian Bushnell
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Neville Bonner sits in the Senate

First Indigenous Parliamentarian Neville Bonner in the Senate. Photo: MoAD.

Senator Neville Bonner AO, the first Indigenous person to serve in the Australian Parliament, will be immortalised in bronze with a commemorative statue to be sited on King George Terrace, near the northwest corner of Old Parliament House.

The National Capital Authority (NCA) has issued a tender for a design and construction team – including a full-body cast bronze figurative sculptor and an Indigenous pavement artist – to create a lasting tribute to the trailblazing Jagera man from Queensland.

The completed sculpture is anticipated to be unveiled in 2025.

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Born in 1922, Neville Bonner etched his name in history in 1971 by becoming the first Indigenous Australian to hold a seat in Parliament.

The NCA says this pivotal moment opened doors for increased Indigenous representation and significantly reshaped Australia’s political landscape.

As a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights, Senator Bonner championed issues such as land rights, social equality and improved living conditions for Indigenous communities.

Serving as a Liberal senator from Queensland from 1971 to 1983, his dedication elevated awareness of these crucial matters within the political sphere.

Senator Bonner’s legacy extends beyond his policy pursuits, possessing an ability to bridge divides and foster collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to contribute to greater understanding and unity.

The NCA is collaborating with Senator Bonner’s family to capture the essence of his life and legacy.

It says an enduring and meaningful tribute that resonates with the broader community is intended.

The tender documents add that a realistic representation rather than an abstract is preferred, including his trademark hair.

Senator Bonner is to be depicted standing on the ground, just about to throw a boomerang, and facing towards the main front entry of Old Parliament House, taken from a 1971 boomerang-throwing demonstration he conducted.

The pavement art should include Senator Bonner’s totem, the carpet snake, in some way.

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The initiative is part of the NCA’s commitment to commemorating underrepresented groups in Australia’s democracy in the National Capital and acknowledging the significant contributions of First Nations people to nation-building.

NCA Acting Chief Executive Hamid Heydarian said: “This tribute not only immortalises Senator Neville Bonner’s impact on our nation’s history but also stands as a symbol of the NCA’s commitment, on behalf of the Australian Government, to elevate awareness and recognition in the heart of the National Capital for the contributions of First Nations people.”

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Gregg Heldon9:05 pm 08 Mar 24

A Long time coming. Thoroughly deserved.

I remember him as a kid. He always came across as a politician of the people and a decent bloke.

A statue in honour of him is a wonderful idea.

Nev & Bob Hawke had the best set of hair ever seen in Parliament.

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