Sergeants’ mess honours traditional owners

Indigenous Elder Uncle Desmond Sandy, left, artist Christopher McGregor-Sandy and Warrant Officer Class One Geoffrey Frew view the painting presented to the sergeants' mess at Gallipoli Barracks. Photo: Corporal Nicole Dorrett

Sergeants’ mess honours traditional owners

The Gallipoli Barracks Sergeants’ Mess has received a traditional artwork as part of National Reconciliation Week, painted by local Indigenous artist Christopher McGregor-Sandy.

Mr McGregor-Sandy, grandson of Indigenous Elder Uncle Desmond Sandy, painted the mural to represent the long-standing relationship between Gallipoli Barracks and the Yuggara and Chepara peoples. 

Regimental Sergeant Major of the 7th Combat Brigade, Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Matthew Bold, highlighted the significance of the artwork as an addition to the mess. 

“Sergeants and warrant officers are the holders of customs and traditions in the Army, and to bring the culture from the First Nations’ people into our environment is really important,” WO1 Bold said. 

“This artwork will tell a story over and over again, so it’s a living piece of a culture in our mess that we can share and be proud of.

“It’s an opportunity for us to learn about our shared history, culture and achievements.”

Mr McGregor-Sandy explained the intricacies of his painting and what made it unique to Gallipoli Barracks. 

“The focus in the centre is the native stingless bee, which I haven’t seen represented in much Aboriginal art, especially with Mount Coot-Tha nearby, which translates to ‘native honey’ in our language,” Mr McGregor-Sandy said. 

“At the bottom we’ve got a Coolamon, and we get Coolamons from the bark of trees, fill them with gum leaves, and that’s how we do our smoking ceremonies to cleanse bad spirits and welcome good spirits.

“Around the sides are symbols that illustrate our connection to each other, each circle is a community or family, with lines in between representing our connection.”

Mr McGregor-Sandy outlined what being able to contribute a traditional artwork to the Gallipoli Barracks Sergeants’ Mess meant to him and his family. 

“Grandad Uncle Desmond is pretty excited about it, he’s been working with the Army for a long time, so for him to see the younger generation presenting something like this is building on that connection and long-term relationship,” he said. 

“It’s particularly significant for Aboriginal people who join the Army who might not be local and are away from their homes.

“They will see something like this and feel welcome in this place of gathering.”

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