The dedication and passion of those involved in this project was instrumental in the realisation of an artistic vision.
The Australian Turkish Friendship Memorial Sculpture, Seeds of Friendship, marks the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings and pays tribute to the extraordinary origins of this shared history. Located on Birdwood Avenue in the Kings Domain, Melbourne and in close proximity to the Shrine of Remembrance, the memorial creates a place for contemplation on the impact of war, and provides a platform for current and future generations from both cultures to reflect on the respect and friendship resulting from this story.
Four years in the making, the realisation of the sculpture was a grassroots and community-driven process. Initiated by the Turkish Sub-branch of the Victorian Returned Services League (RSL) president Ramazan Altintas, along with Serdar Baycan and Elizabeth Grigg from Tectura Architects who donated their time and effort as the project convenors, the proposal gained backing from community groups, members of State and Federal Parliament and the Victorian RSL, in particular from the State President, Major General David McLachlan AO (Retd) who provided unwavering support and guidance throughout the duration of the project, organising a trust fund for public donations under the auspice of the Victorian RSL and helping to increase public and political exposure.
Early and ongoing support from Air Chief Marshall Sir Angus Houston (Retd) initially as Chair of the Anzac Centenary Board assisted the project to gain the level of gravitas required in embarking upon a project of such national significance.
The proposal and concept development was a lengthy and considered process. When the Turkish Australian community was first consulted on what the memorial should represent, four themes began to emerge.
The first was to educate by building knowledge of the Turkish and Australian perspective of the Gallipoli campaign for future generations of young Australians; the community wanted a memorial for all Australian and Turkish soldiers.
The second was to commemorate the respect, camaraderie and friendship displayed by ANZAC and Turkish soldiers, noting that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk provided the first public expression of words of friendship towards the ANZACs and their families.
The third was that the memorial should provide a place of reflection and commemoration that pays respect to the Australian and Turkish soldiers that included visual references to Gallipoli.
And finally, the community wanted to celebrate the linking and exchange between cultures, highlighting the firm connections that have been established between Australia and Turkey over the last century.
These four themes formed the basis of the design brief which was further developed alongside community consultation. A shortlist of four experienced artists, three Australian and one Turkish artist, were invited to submit a design proposal which was assessed by a community-based sculpture design assessment panel.
Extensive community consultation and a broad spectrum of supporters saw this project through to completion.
In July 2014, based on recommendations from the panel and subsequent approval from Melbourne City Council, Matthew Harding, a Victorian artist, was commissioned to further develop his design alongside an extensive fundraising program.
As a result of these fundraising efforts, Serdar, Elizabeth and Ramazan were successful in securing generous funding from the Victorian Government’s Anzac Centenary Major Grants Fund and the Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund; the Australian Government’s ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program and Saluting their Service Major Commemorative Grants Program; the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry’s Promotion Fund; and a series of donations from community members.
Both State and Federal governments have taken a bi-partisan approach in their support for the memorial where funding that had been committed by Government was recommitted by the new incoming Government.
In particular the former Victorian Premier the Hon Ted Baillieu and the Australian Minister for Veterans Affairs, Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson have taken a long standing interest in the project. The Turkish Consul General Mr Mehmet Kuçuksakalli since arriving in Melbourne in October 2014 November last year has been a strong advocate and together with the Turkish Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Reha Keskintepe, has secured a commitment of funding from the Republic of Turkey. Moreover, Frank McGuire, MP for Broadmeadows, provided advice and support in relation to gaining funding from the Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund.
As part of the ANZAC Centenary, the sculpture was officially opened on Monday, April 13, 2015. The ceremony marked the completion of the artwork and provided an opportunity to formally acknowledge the support of everyone who contributed to this significant community project.
The ceremony was presided over by Serdar Baycan as the Master of Ceremonies, with key note speakers including the Hon. Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria; Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, representing the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, the Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs; His Excellency Mr Reha Keskintepe, the Turkish Ambassador; the Hon. John Eren, the Victorian Minister for Veterans; Major General David McLachlan, AO (Rtd), State President of the RSL; and the Hon. Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle. Brief remarks will also be made by the project convenors, Ramazan Altintas and Elizabeth Grigg as well as from the Artist, Matthew Harding.
The Australian Turkish Friendship Memorial Sculpture, Seeds of Friendship, represents a labour of love, one which has capitalised on a once-in-a-century opportunity to bring cultures and generations together. The sculpture pays homage not only to the bond that has developed between the Turkish and Australian veterans and their families, but forms part of a greater narrative surrounding Turkish migration to Australia, and the Turkish community’s invaluable contribution to the cultural fabric of Melbourne.
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