Wingecarribee Shire Council is calling on relatives of Australian servicemen and women of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent to share the history of their service as they prepare for this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations.
Council’s Aboriginal Project Officer Joanne Albany explained the concept.
“The theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations is entitled Serving Country – Centenary and Beyond,” she said. “It was chosen by the National NAIDOC Committee to honour all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of our country.”
From the Boer War in the late 19th Century through to modern day conflicts in Afghanistan, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have played an integral role in Australia’s Armed Forces.
“The history of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women is largely a story yet to be fully told,” Ms Albany explained.
“Over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers fought in almost every Australian campaign of the First World War even though back home they couldn’t vote nor were they counted in the Census.
“But for many, their stories continued after their war efforts,” Ms Albany continued.
Ironically, many servicemen and women experienced equal treatment for the first time in their lives in the Armed Forces. However, upon return to civilian life, many found they were treated with the same prejudice and discrimination as before.
“Many of the servicemen returned home to daily life prescribed by the “Aborigines Protection Board” only to find their children had been removed into Institutional care.
“Others who had fought for Australia during the Second World War were then banned from celebrating with their Armed Forces mates in many pubs and Returned and Services Leagues Clubs, except on Anzac Day, and were not given the right to vote for another 17 years,” Ms Albany added.
“We’re asking the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community who may have any photos, memorabilia or experiences of any relatives who served, to honour their family members by sharing their memories with the wider community.”
The display covering both Veterans and existing servicemen and women will be erected in Council’s Moss Vale Civic Centre foyer over the month of July.
The display will be opened on Monday the 7July at 10am as part of the official launch of NAIDOC Week.
NAIDOC Week will be celebrated nationally between the 6 to 13 July 2014.
For more information contact Council’s Aboriginal Project Officer on phone 4868 0865.