Military History

Honouring Warrior Spirits

By Joseph West July 12, 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.


Please click here to see the Honouring Warrior Spirits video.




Joseph West

Major West joined the Army in 1992 as an Electronic Technician in  RASIGS and later attended RMC graduating in 1998 and corps transferring to RAEME. He completed a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and Bachelor of Computer Science at ADFA in 2005. His postings include 1st Signal Regiment, South Queensland Logistic Group, Maintenance Advisor Service and 7th Signal regiment. He's had operational service in East Timor and Afghanistan.  He left full time service in 2013 to start a real estate office in Brisbane and to study Artificial Intelligence at Queensland University of Technology. He still serves in the Reserves as a staff officer for special projects.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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