As people gathered at the Aboriginal Memorial in bushland behind the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Jeff Timbrey’s didgeridoo invited people to remember the service and sacrifice of the thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served in the Australian Defence Force.
Just after dawn on ANZAC Day, Wing Commander Lisa Jackson- Pulver, a proud Aboriginal women and serving member of the Royal Australia Air Force reminded us that despite rules against their enrolment and not being recognised as citizens until 1967, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have proudly served for Australia for over the last 100 years.
There are hundreds of untold stories about their bravery, sacrifice and contribution to Australia’s war efforts.
The fact that Aboriginal people captured the first Japanese Prisoner of War on Melville Island armed with only a stick, or that Koori women and girls knitted thousands of socks, jumpers and balaclavas for the war effort at the Cumeroogunga Government Mission, or that the Lovett family, Gunditjmara people from western Victoria, have served for Australia in every war since World War I to the present day—a feat that no other Australian family has followed—are just a few.
The intimate ceremony in Canberra was one of a number around the country to remember such efforts and in the words of recently retired Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, “recognise and be thankful for the fine and dedicated service of our Indigenous servicemen and women, past and present”.
The Ceremony is held each ANZAC Day following the dawn service at the Australia War Memorial and all members of the public are welcome.
By Phoebe Dent, Policy & Research Officer for Reconciliation Australia