Ceremony honours Indigenous veterans

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), LSIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Location(s): Kings Park, Perth, WA

Topic(s): National Reconciliation Week, Commemoration

Issac Jones performs a traditional dance with the Wesley College Dancers at the Indigenous Veterans Commemoration at Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia. (photo: LSIS Richard Cordell)
Issac Jones performs a traditional dance with the Wesley College Dancers at the Indigenous Veterans Commemoration at Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia.

Indigenous veterans past and present were remembered recently at a commemoration held at the Western Australian State War Memorial in Kings Park.

The Remember Indigenous Service event, which was held during National Reconciliation Week, attracted hundreds of veterans, school students, serving ADF personnel and members of the public. 

Western Australian Governor The Honourable Kim Beazley AC said the sacrifice of Indigenous Australians during national conflicts was often overlooked.

“For 12 years now we have officially honoured Indigenous service men and women during National Reconciliation Week,” he said.

“This year, in broader commemoration, it has been those of the First World War who are in our minds.

“Of those who served, more than 1000 were Indigenous and over 100 came from Western Australia.

“They were involved in all the iconic battles of the war in the Middle East and in Europe; starting with Gallipoli and ending in the battle that broke the Hindenburg Line in late 1918.”

His Excellency said Indigenous Australians were motivated to join the fray for largely the same reasons as the rest of the population. 

“Like most service personnel they fought in the first instance for their mates and to be with their mates, they looked for adventure, but they also saw equal wages and conditions which they saw nowhere else. 

“They hoped that as there was equality in sacrifice, there would be equality in life when conflict concluded, but there wasn’t.”

His Excellency said this started to change when the Second World War broke out in 1939.

“Indigenous folk enlisted in numbers,” he said.

“Many more worked in logistics and the battle for Australia, while many more in irregular units patrolled the northern coast and islands; they were in the front line.”

Other speakers at the event included President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services and Veterans Association of Western Australia Ms Di Ryder, and retired magistrate Dr Sue Gordon AM.

National Reconciliation Week was held between May 27 and June 3 across the country - this year’s theme 'Don’t Keep History A Mystery' encouraged all Australians to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.