First Nations at first light on Australia Day 2021 in Sydney

For the first time on Australia Day, the Sydney Opera House sails have been lit up at dawn with Indigenous art as a poignant recognition of Australia’s First Nations people. Shortly after first light, the Aboriginal flag was raised alongside the Australian flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

These two significant dawn moments set the tone for Australia Day 2021 across NSW with a focus on reflecting and respecting all that makes our country so special.

NSW artist, Frances Belle-Parker, was commissioned to create the artwork for the projection on the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Ms Belle-Parker, a proud Yaegl woman, mother and artist from Maclean on the Clarence River, said she is proud to have designed the projection to represent the oldest living culture in the world.

“By creating this work, it gave myself the opportunity to help tell a story that not only represents who we are as a nation but also to give people a wider understanding of Aboriginal Culture and how valuable it really is to our identity as a nation,” she said.

“Our sense of belonging to the land is something that is intrinsically embedded into our being, and as First Nations people we are responsible for sharing the truth of our history.”

The colours of the artwork are inspired by the vast array of colours present in the Australian landscape and coastline. The circle markings depict the 250-plus Aboriginal Language groups present in Australia and the linear marks represent the 200 nationalities that call Australia home.

The projection coincided with both the Australian and the Aboriginal flags being raised on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In previous years, both flags were raised at the conclusion of the WugulOra Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve. The WugulOra Morning Ceremony will be broadcast live on ABC TV and iview from 7.30am.

Yvonne Weldon, Chair of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council said it’s a time for inclusion and the opportunity for greater understanding and reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. A time to draw on the strength and resilience of our First People.

“The raising of the Aboriginal Flag at the outset of Australia Day symbolises a deep respect for Aboriginal people and culture within New South Wales – in the first State, at first light we recognise our First Nations,” Ms Weldon said.

“It is an important moment to remember that Australia’s First Nation’s people are the foundation of our nation’s story. It is important to acknowledge and honour the sacrifices and we thank the ancestors for their custodianship for thousands of generations.”

The Sydney Opera House projection commenced at 5.20am. The Aboriginal and Australian flags were raised on the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 5.45am.

Australia Day in NSW Partners