ANZAC DAY is a special day in Australia in which we remember all Australians who have served the country and died during wartime. It would be hard to find an Australian family that has not been affected by war in the past. ANZAC Day is a time to reflect on the tragedy of war, the casualties and the long-term effects of armed conflicts between nations.
A part of Australia’s ANZAC history which has been less documented is the participation of Indigenous Australians in war, who were present at almost every conflict and peace-keeping mission that Australia has been involved in since Federation.
Over 400 Indigenous Australians fought in World War I in almost every Australian campaign. Many who tried to enlist were rejected on the grounds of race. Although treated as equals while at war, back home Indigenous Australians could not vote, had limited educational and job opportunities, restricted liberties and were not even counted in the census.
In World War II hundreds of Indigenous Australians served in the army (2nd AIF), navy, air force and militia. Many Aboriginal women played an important role, including Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) who joined the Australian Women’s Army Service in 1942 after her two brothers were captured by the Japanese during the fall of Singapore.
You can read more about ANZAC Day and the involvement of Indigenous Australians in wartime at:
- Australian War Memorial: the ANZAC Day tradition
- Australian War Memorial: Indigenous Australian servicemen
- AIATSIS Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies: Indigenous Australians at war
- Department of Veterans’ Affairs: Indigenous Australians at war