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Exhibition and video series to honour Elders for NAIDOC week

Serving Country exhibition in Coffs Harbour campus library


Content Team
30 June 2023

First Nations veterans, including Gnibi Elders Council member Uncle Rob Bryant, will be honoured in a photographic exhibition sharing the stories of First Nations servicemen and women on all three Southern Cross University campuses.

Serving Country is a national touring exhibition of more than 150 photographic portraits and stories depicting the lived experiences of First Nations people in the Australian Defence Force.

Created by human rights social documentarian Belinda Mason and videographer Dieter Knierim, the exhibition highlights stories of inspiration, courage and mateship as well as loss and tragedy.

The portraits are printed on brushed aluminium panels and silk and will be displayed across the three Southern Cross University campus libraries from 3 July.

Uncle Rob Bryant is a Gumbaynggirr Warrior. He is a retired aircraftman from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Vietnam Veteran. He enlisted in the RAAF in 1967 and completed a Tour of Duty in South Vietnam between 1971 and 1973. He was honourably discharged in 1973.

Uncle Rob Bryant will attend NAIDOC events alongside Uncle Colin Watego OAM, a Bundjalung, Torres Strait Islander and South Pacific Islander man who is a retired Warrant Officer Class One in the Australian Defence Force and an East Timor Veteran. He received a Medal of the Order of Australia for meritorious service to Indigenous Affairs in the Australian Defence Force in 2016. Other First Nations Elders attending the Gold Coast campus who are featured in Serving Country include Uncle James Mimi, Uncle Vern Hopkins, Aunty Lorraine Hatton, Aunty Patricia Lees and Uncle George Bostock.

The Exhibition will launch across the three main campuses as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations and will be displayed until Sunday 13 August, 2023.  Coffs Harbour campus exhibition entry is by appointment only after 16 July (



In conjunction with the Serving Country exhibition, NAIDOC celebrations this year will include the launch of a series of short videos from Gnibi Elders Council members, Uncle Gary Williams, Aunty Chris Kelly, Uncle Allan Phillips, Uncle Rob Bryant, Uncle Herb Roberts, Babani Robyne Bancroft, Uncle Des Williams, Aunty Sue Follent and Aunty Ruth Green, sharing stories of life, values and education. This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘For Our Elders.’

Dean of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Associate Professor Stuart Barlo, said the exhibition and video series enabled Elders to have their stories heard in a public forum.

“We have an opportunity at the University to not only recognise our Elders but also acknowledge them for their service and recognise the significance of Aboriginal servicemen and women,” Associate Professor Barlo said.

“Aboriginal people have served in the military since day one. Even in World War I when it was against the law for an Aboriginal person to serve.

“It’s also amazing to hear the significance of every Elder’s story and their journey with education. We will have a number of our Elders giving their stories which will help us to really speak to the young people coming through about the importance of education for their future.”


NAIDOC Week celebrations:

Coffs Harbour

Campus Library, Block E1

Monday 3 July, 2023



Campus Library, Learning Centre, Goodman Plaza

Tuesday 4 July, 2023


Gold Coast

Campus Library, Building C

Wednesday July 5, 2023


For more information on Serving Country, visit

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