Honouring Warrior SpiritsBy Joseph West July 4, 2019
The history of Indigenous service during World War One is not generally well-known. At the time, Indigenous people were forbidden to join the military. As such, service records do not provide an indication whether a member was Indigenous or not. Despite this, there are some clues within the service records that might provide an indication to a person's heritage. The most common was that the soldier had a dark complexion or listed a known aboriginal mission or mission station as his place of birth or residence. Some additional comments can be found in the distinctive marks box on these records or in other areas on the service record.
The ANZAC story, up until around 2003, denied Indigenous service. As a result, there was a period of time there when you would be forgiven for being mistaken for thinking that Gallipoli was only fought by non-Indigenous soldiers. Researchers have since discovered that there were Indigenous soldiers at Gallipoli and throughout all campaigns during World War One. To acknowledge their forgotten service, Army tasked a team of current serving Indigenous soldiers to develop a ceremony, which was true to both Army and Indigenous cultures, to recognise the Indigenous soldiers that fell at Gallipoli and that had been excluded from the ANZAC story for nearly 100 years. A ceremony was conducted in 2015 at ANZAC Cove Gallipoli to gather the spirits of the fallen soldier through a traditional soil ceremony and these spirits were returned to Canberra and laid to rest at the Australian War Memorial.
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