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A stunning mural dedicated to Gunditjmara servicemen and women in south-west Victoria will ensure their part in Australia's war history is honoured for generations to come.
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria Danielle Green on Wednesday visited the Gunditjmara War Memorial Mural in Heywood, alongside the Traditional Owners and advocates who brought the mural to life.
The mural depicts Gunditjmara brothers, Privates Herbert, Frederick, Edward and Leonard Lovett who enlisted and served in the first and second world wars. There were 13 members of the Lovett family that served in both world wars.
Captain Reginald Saunders - a Purnim man who was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army - also features in the artwork.
Private Herbert Lovett is the great-grandfather of local artist Tom Day who alongside Levi Geebung, returned home to Gunditjmara Country to help paint the 30-metre-high mural with internationally acclaimed street artist Matt Adnate.
The mural has been supported by the state government's Stronger Regional Communities Program which has been delivered by Leadership Great South Coast 2020 Alumni, Troy Lovett, Emily Falla, Craig Kelson and Jason Van Der Heyden.
It was a proud day for Troy Lovett, a descendent of the Lovett brothers.
"The idea for the tower came from my family," Mr Lovett said. "To see their dream become a reality is pretty awesome, and for me even to just to be a part of it as part of the project team was awesome as well.
"Aunty Laura Bell was there, whose father was on the tower. I can only imagine what like for her to see his face up there now."
Very few Indigenous soldiers were recognised for their service, including the Lovett brothers.
More than 500 Indigenous Australians enlisted and served during the First World War.
Indigenous Australians were present in almost every Australian campaign of the War, however the exact number who volunteered is not known because ethnicity was not recorded on personnel files.
After the First World War, Indigenous veterans found their war service did not bring an end to discrimination. Only one Indigenous person is known to have received land under the post-war 'soldier settlement scheme'.
This mural marks an important step towards ensuring their legacy lives on, said Mr Lovett.
"I think that recognition was one of our big aims for the project; to have that as a conversation starter is pretty important to us and something we've said all along through the project.
"It's the first step to get people talking about that history - the truth telling of it, bringing those stories to light that many people won't be aware of.
"The brothers and many Indigenous soldiers around the country missed out on soldier settlement schemes and the recognition they deserved when they returned home."
The brothers and many Indigenous soldiers around the country missed out on soldier settlement schemes and the recognition they deserved when they returned home.Troy Lovett
Indigenous war memorials have been established in the south-west region over recent years.
"We've got plans for future ceremonies and events at those memorials," Mr Lovett said.
"It's a big step in the right direction but there's further to go. We definitely need more action around it to carry on their stories.
"We've only told two stories of the Lovett's and Uncle Reg through the tower. There's so many more stories out there."
During research for the mural project the team uncovered a myriad of untold stories in the region that even the Lovett's didn't know about their family.
One includes a story of aircraft woman Alice Lovett.
"Her father Leonard is on the tower, and we weren't aware of her service until we started doing the project."
The mural aims to encourage truth telling and empower the community to honour and acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices made by Indigenous service men and women, said Minister Green.
"This memorial is significant to the community as it recognises the remarkable acts of Gunditjmara service men and women," Minister Green said.
"This artwork will make sure the history and stories of the Gunditjmara people are honoured for years to come."
Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation's Aaron Morgan said it marks a big shift towards truth-telling.
"This project has taken a huge step in recognition for Gunditjmara - it is something that will open up very important conversations," he said.
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