Recognising Indigenous Service17 May 2019
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service people have served in every war and conflict since the Boer War.
On May 29, wreaths will be laid at the Shrine of Remembrance to honour a group of people whose service and sacrifice is often overlooked in the telling of Australia’s military history.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served in every war and conflict since the Boer War, despite being legally excluded from military service until 1949. Because they used false names and backgrounds, it is impossible to know exactly how many signed up despite the legislation, although it is estimated that about 1,000 Indigenous Australians served in World War I.
Indigenous service people experienced less discrimination in the military than in wider Australian society. There was little room for racism on the battlefield; what mattered was courage, mateship and teamwork.
But although they fought – and sometimes died – shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Australians, they returned home to a country that still refused to acknowledge them as citizens and denied them the recognition and entitlements they had earned.
Nothing we do now can change the past. But the Indigenous Veterans’ Ceremony aims to recognise the invaluable contribution of our Indigenous service people to Australia’s Defence Force, both past and present. For the past decade, this ceremony has been an important part of National Reconciliation Week, and has taken its rightful place on our commemorative calendar.
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF INDIGENOUS SERVICE PEOPLE IN PAST CONFLICTS
(source: Australian War Memorial)
Boer War (1899-1902) 5-12
WWI (1914-1918) 1,000
WWII (1939-1945) 1,570
Korea (1951-1953) 40
Malaya (1948-1960) 30
Vietnam (1963-1972) 300
To find out more details about the Brisbane City indigenous veterans' ceremony click here.