At a ceremony in Nagasaki Peace Park on 18 April, a sculpture symbolising Australia’s potent desire for peace and harmony was unveiled by Japanese nuclear survivors.
‘Tree of Life: Gift of Peace’ was sculpted in bronze by Indigenous Australians, John Turpie and Stephen Harrison from Maralinga, a remote Aboriginal community in South Australia which was used as a British nuclear test site between 1956 and 1963.
The sculpture stands as a stark reminder of the close ties between Australia and Japan, two nations who have survived firsthand experiences of nuclear weapons, albeit from very different perspectives.
The torn, roughly cut tree embodies the post-nuclear landscape of the land on which it sits. A uniquely shaped piti dish, an Aboriginal symbol of peace, with the tree as its donor, perches at the top. The work embodies the resilience of both its donors and its recipients and stands as a symbol of friendship.
The sculpture is the outcome of a two year cultural exchange project between the Anangu peoples of the central Australian desert, and Japan and commemorates the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August 2015.
"There is excitement that Yalata and the Maralinga people have the opportunity to take this [work] to another world, to other atomic survivor communities”, said Jeremy LeBois, Chair of Maralinga Tjarutja Council. Mr LeBois and other community leaders, as well as artists from the remote Anangu communities of Yalata and Oak Valley/Maralinga in South Australia travelled to Japan for the unveiling.
Deputy Mayor of Fremantle, Josh Wilson From, representing the Mayors for Peace Australia of Western Australia, travelled to Nagasaki for the ceremony and met with Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue where the two officials pledged to work towards nuclear disarmament.
The sculpture is one of three projects the Australian Embassy Tokyo has sponsored to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the end of the World War Two. In August 2015, the Embassy supported Japanese non-profit organisation, the POW Research Network, to erect a memorial to Australian prisoners of war who died in Nagasaki. In 2016, the Embassy is also assisting the Australia War Memorial gift iconic Lone Pine trees, a potent Australian symbol of peace, to the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.