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Sydney Jewish jeweller’s statement from the heart

Paula Towers
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Published: 30 December 2022

Last updated: 5 March 2024

PAULA TOWERS talks to Michael Neuman, who has partnered with an Indigenous designer to create a special pin as a symbol of support for the Uluru Statement.

A precious version of the pin created to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart has been created by Sydney jeweller Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier.

“They are customisable in one, two or three colours of gold … yellow, white or rose gold. Owners also have the option to add diamonds or initials,” Mondial Company Director Michael Neuman told The Jewish Independent. “Each element is hand polished and assembled by our jeweller here in Sydney on Eora land.”

The design for the pins derives from a commission given to renowned Indigenous designer Alison Page for a piece of artwork for supporters of the Uluru Statement to wear.

A Walbanga and Wadi Wadi woman, an award-winning designer and film producer, Professor Page is Associate Dean (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement), Executive, UTS Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building as well as founder of the National Aboriginal Design Agency.

Page, who links Indigenous stories and traditional knowledge with contemporary design, was asked to use metalwork that could be fashioned into a lapel pin. Page incorporated the three artefacts that accompanied the presentation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart: a shield; a carrying vessel [‘piti’ or coolamon bag]; and a fighting stick, which symbolised forms of protection and of moving forward the message of the Uluru Statement.

The three artefacts, the Piti (bowls), Tjutinypa (clubs and chisels) and Tjara (shield) were gifted on May 26, 2017 by Pitjantjatjara Elder Sammy Wilson, traditional owner of Uluru, on behalf of the Mutitjulu community to key members of the Referendum Council - Noel Pearson, Aunty Pat Anderson, Professor Megan Davis and Mark Leibler.

The Piti, Wilson explained, was to carry the message across Australia. Of the Tjutinypa, he said: "that's the weapon you use to keep talking with the politicians." The Tjara, he said, were "to defend the Uluru Statement and to keep the message straight".

Like all first nations’ handcraft, Indigenous artefacts, art and sculpture, it has a certain aesthetic to it which is very significant. It’s inherently a connection to the people who are connected to the place.

Michael Neuman

The design association of Page and Neuman began about 15 years ago. Neuman had long wanted to create items with an Indigenous theme “but in a culturally sensitive way”. Then he saw Page on The New Inventors TV show where she was a regular judge.

“I contacted Alison, we discussed my ideas and she was really keen - that’s how the collaboration came about to create Diamond-Dreaming”; a Mondial range described as “unique contemporary jewellery that reflects Aboriginal storytelling values”.

Page told The Jewish Independent: “I’m a designer that does Aboriginal storytelling and I work across a range – I do urban design projects, work with public art, I work at a lot of different scales.

“I really like working with Mondial because it’s about working at a very tiny scale, with very precious materials; and thinking about Aboriginal storytelling and its relationship to adorning ritual.”

The Jewish Independent

“Because the thing about jewellery – it’s meaningful,” Neuman said, “it’s all about storytelling. With the Diamond-Dreaming range, each piece represents something, it’s not just a simple image or design - it has meaning.

“Like all first nations’ handcraft, Indigenous artefacts, art and sculpture, it has a certain aesthetic to it which is very significant. It’s inherently a connection to the people who are connected to the place.

“All first nations people worldwide, have a very long, stable connection to where they are, so they have their own ways of expressing this in their art and culture. I always thought it would be great to have contemporary fine jewellery that reflected that.”

This latest project carries a huge level of meaning. “The supporters’ pin has far more meaning than anything that we’ve created before, because it represents the Uluru Statement from the Heart,” Neuman said.

Page was approached around two years ago when Professor Megan Davis and Indigenous leaders were starting to attract corporate support for the Uluru Statement. “They really felt that they wanted to create a movement that you could have a marker for. And wear it: “wear your heart [the Uluru Statement from The Heart] on your sleeve” so to speak,” Page explains.

As well as the corporate sector, “that momentum of reconciliation has always been pushed from the grass roots” she observed, referencing the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk in 2000 that attracted over 250,000.

Both pin versions are entirely designed and created in Australia. The Uluru pin was created as a means of supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart. A significant amount from each sale will go towards supporting the cause.

The first public wearing of the pins is believed to have been in November at the gala dinner for the awarding of the Sydney Peace Prize to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. All those attending the event received standard pins, placed on the tables in front of each person's seat.

The precious pins were worn by Aunty Pat [Anderson AO] and Professor Megan Davis, two of the three advocates awarded the prize for their work on the Uluru Statement, which was voted winner of Australia’s only international prize for peace from over 200 community nominations. 

The Peace Prize has been awarded annually for more than two decades, recognising global voices that promote peace, justice, and non-violence. This year’s award ceremony and gala dinner, held on November 18, attracted over 800 attendees.

Mondial’s focus is on the precious version of the pin. Orders for some of these versions have already been placed. From ordering to delivery of the piece takes around six weeks. And $500 from the sale of each precious pin [purchase price $4,900] goes straight to fund the work of The Uluru Statement from The Heart and The Voice to Parliament.

"The detail on the 18ct gold precious supporters’ pin is much finer than the standard supporters’ pin – though the design is the same," Neuman added.

Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier is a family business, established 60 years ago by Michael’s parents, Sydney Jewish couple Fred and Maria Neuman, and based in Sydney’s Queen Victoria building for the past 30 years.

“We’re really proud to have been brought into it [this project] and to have been engaged in helping to create something which stands for such a positive move forward in the next chapter of Australia,” Michael Neuman said.

“We’re just a jewellery company but we like to try and do what we can to help what we think are important social justice issues… it’s been really a privilege to be involved in the project, and we hope it’s incredibly successful.”

Main photo: The Uluru pin and Mondial Jewellery Director Michael Neuman

About the author

Paula Towers

Paula Towers is a writer and editor, and has also worked as a political speechwriter and researcher. Currently, Paula is a presenter and producer on the Arts Thursday show at Sydney's Eastside Radio as well as a freelance writer for print publications and a travel web site.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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