Joint forces: Indigenous and non-indigenous service men and women marched to the Coffs Harbour cenotaph yesterday to recognise the unknown number of Aboriginal men and women who have fought for Australia.
Joint forces: Indigenous and non-indigenous service men and women marched to the Coffs Harbour cenotaph yesterday to recognise the unknown number of Aboriginal men and women who have fought for Australia. Bruce Thomas

March supports Aboriginal troops

MARCHING as brothers in arms, war veterans have commemorated Australia’s indigenous servicemen and woman in a symbolic coming together in Coffs Harbour.

While yesterday’s march was never planned to be political, it has raised questions why the Federal Government has not yet established Australia’s first official register of Aboriginal military service.

NSW Aboriginal Land Council chairwoman Bev Manton said the march highlighted the need for the Rudd Government to act.

“This country’s debt to these men and women is long overdue,” Ms Manton said. “There are still no accurate figures on how many Aboriginal people served.

“We do know they have fought in every campaign since the Boer War, with possibly as many as 1000 Aboriginal men and women serving in the First World War and up to 4000 in the Second World War.

“They have not received the recognition they deserve. All too often they are the forgotten veterans.”

State president of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association, David Williams, said the history of Aboriginal servicemen and woman needs to be documented.

“This contribution is not widely recognised, nor is the fact that until the early 1940s Aboriginal volunteers were often rejected on the basis of race. Yet still they applied – denying their culture where necessary,” Mr Williams said.

Rather than stating they were Aboriginal, many said they were Maori, Pacific Islander or just Australian.

Backed by the Coffs Harbour RSL sub-branch, the march was pushed by Coffs Harbour ex-servicemen Trevor Wilson.

“All diggers participated. That’s the way we wanted it – Aboriginal ex-servicemen and woman came from many parts of the State, not just from Coffs Harbour and nearby towns, but as far afield as Grafton, Moree, Newcastle and Canberra,” Mr Wilson said.



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