On Sunday 14 October 2017, a thousand people gathered at the Hobart harbour for the launch of ‘Footsteps’, an iconic sculpture on an iconic site. At last the arrival of the convict women and their children has become visible at the landing place on Hunter Island where they first set foot onto land after the long voyage.
Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner, Governor of Tasmania, drew the attention of the crowd to the ‘remarkable fact that these bronze sculptures are modelled from living descendants of convict women who stepped ashore here’. This, she said, ‘reinforces for us all the reality that, while the lives of those women were often wretched, they were also in many respects the founding mothers of today’s Tasmania’.
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, reflected on the broader meanings of Rowan Gillespie’s powerful art: ‘These sculptures, let us remind ourselves, also make common cause with the suffering of migrants in our times. They should remind us that the trauma of displacement and forced exile are not experiences confined to our past, but are the lived experience of millions around the world today, including many who now call Australia home.’