QUEENSLANDERS are being encouraged to recognise the many Indigenous Australians who’ve also served in the military on the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.
Minister with responsibility for the Centenary of ANZAC commemorations and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Glen Elmes, said most Australians are familiar with the achievements of Australia’s Indigenous sportspeople and entertainers, but there’s little recognition for thousands of Indigenous servicemen and women before and since Federation.
“Indigenous Australians have served the country in conflicts going back to the Boer War, and many have died protecting Australian and Commonwealth interests,” Mr Elmes said.
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“Many of them had been treated as equals for the first time in their lives as service personnel.
“They became soldiers, sailors and airmen, fighting and dying alongside other Australians on battlefields across the world and were awarded decorations for valour, including the Distinguished Conduct Medal – second in significance only to the Victoria Cross.
“Among Queenslanders to have enlisted for service was famous poet, Kath Walker, of the Noonuccal people of Stradbroke Island, who reverted in later life to her indigenous name, Oodgeroo Noonuccal.
“Another distinguished Queenslander was Warrant Officer Leonard Waters, the first Indigenous Australian to earn his ‘wings’ as a pilot, and whose Kittyhawk aircraft was named ‘Black Magic’.”
Mr Elmes said the sacrifice of Indigenous service personnel should be commemorated on 25 April with appropriate dignity and remembrance as for all Australian military personnel.
“It makes no difference whether service personnel were Indigenous or not, or whether their service was out of a sense of duty or adventure, we should all be thankful that they served,” he said.
“We should acknowledge the sacrifice they made, whether they returned to Australia or lie buried in a far distant field.”