Research Centre > Reference Material > Reading List

Aboriginal servicemen and women

Further online resources

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Defence Force


Desmond Ball (ed.), Aborigines in the defence of Australia (Sydney: Australian National University Press, 1991)

Reg A. Ball, 5 Aust. MG Bn (AIF) Torres Strait Force (Kareela: Reg A. Ball, 1993)
[Contains Honour Roll and Nominal Roll.]

Joan Beaumont, Australian defence: sources and statistics (Australian Centenary History of Defence, vol. 6 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2001): chapter 9
[Tables, statistics, and literature reviews; includes a section of what resources are avalible on this topic.]

Harry Gordon, The embarrassing Australian: the story of an Aboriginal warrior (Melbourne: Cheshire-Lansdowne, 1965)
[Biography of Reg Saunders.]

Robert A. Hall, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the Second World War (Canberra: Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, 1987)

Robert A. Hall, The black diggers: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the Second World War (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1989)
[Excellent description of the variety and scope of Aboriginal involvement.]

Robert A. Hall, Fighters from the fringe: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders recall the Second World War (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1995)
[Includes memoirs and biographical information for Reg Saunders, et al.]

Robert A. Hall, Report: employment of Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders by the Defence Force during the Second World War ([Canberra]: Department of Defence, 1987)
[Comprehensive and analytical description of Aboriginal war work, payment, conditions, and experiences; includes information and nominal rolls for some particular units.]

Alick Jackomos and Derek Fowell, Forgotten heroes: Aborigines at war from the Somme to Vietnam (South Melbourne: Victoria Press, 1993)
[Contains biographies, photographs and a nominal roll.]

Doreen Kartinyeri, Ngarrindjeri Anzacs (Adelaide: Aboriginal Family History Project, South Australian Museum, and Raukkan Council, 1996)
[Short biographies and photographs; contains nominal roll.]

Kenny Laughton (ed.), Aboriginal ex-Servicemen of Central Australia (Alice Springs: IAD Press, 1995)
[Contains nominal roll, and testimonies. Includes those who did not see active service.]

Kenny Laughton, Not quite men, no longer boys (Alice Springs: Jukurrpa Books, 1999)
[Autobiography of Vietnam veteran, mostly as a combat engineer.]

Douglas Lockwood, The front door: Darwin 1869–1969 (London: Angus and Robertson, 1969)

Rod Moran, Icon of the north: the legend of Tom Gray (Northbridge: Access Press, c. 1995)
[Biography of a Second World War veteran.]

Elizabeth Osborne, Torres Strait Islander women and the Pacific War (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 1997)
[Based on research and interviews. Topics include: evacuation from the islands; difference in experiences and perspectives between Islanders and Aborigines; the effects of war on Islander lifestyles.]

Eugene Perez (Rosemary Pratt and John Millington eds.), Kalumburu war diary (Perth: Artlook Books, 1981)
[Missionary’s diary from the northern Kimberleys.]

Alan Powell, The shadow’s edge: Australia’s northern war (Carlton South: Melbourne University Press, 1988)

Donald F. Thomson, Dona NTSRU 1941–1943: Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit (Yirrkala, NT: Yirrkala Literature Producton Centre, 1992)
[Based on a report from Thomson, creator of the NTSRU; details unit’s formation and objectives, and contains recommendations for Natjialma and Raiwalla, and a nominal roll.]

Harold Thornell and Estelle Thompson, A bridge over time: living in Arnhemland with the Aborigines 1938–1944 (Melbourne: J. M. Dent, 1986)

Thursday Island State School, Torres Strait at war: a recollection of wartime experiences (Thursday Island: Thursday Island State High School, 1988)
[Includes order of battle, list of air raids on Thursday Island, and interviews with Islanders; contains a nominal roll of the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal members of the Torres Strait Defence Force.]

Richard and Helen Walker, Curtin’s cowboys: Australia’s secret bush commandos (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1986)
[History of the North Australia Observer Unit; includes a chapter on relations with Aboriginal people.]


“Aboriginal clergyman opposes battalion idea”, Mufti 16: 12 (December 1951): 14

“Aborigine diggers: list grows”, Reveille, 5: 2 (31 October 1931): 15

“Aborigine diggers succeed: high marks in life”, Reveille 42:10 (1 May 1969): 22

“Aborigines day, national ceremonies”, Reveille 42: 12 (1 July 1969): 9

“Aborigines in the services”, Aboriginal history 16: 1–2 (Canberra: Australian National University, Department of Pacific and Southeast Asian History, 1992)
[Special edition on Aboriginal people in the services. Includes useful listings of resources available in Australian libraries and archives (though slightly out-of-date); other topics include short biographies, Malaya and Vietnam, and the Northern Territory Coastal Patrol.]

“AIF Aborigines: how many?”, Reveille 4: 12 (31 August 1931): 5
[The first serious effort to elicit information about Aboriginal servicemen; several follow-up articles produced.]

“AIF Aborigines: N.S.W.”, Reveille 5: 5 (31 January 1932): 20

“AIF Aboriginals”, Reveille 18: 4 (December 1944) 35

“A plea for the Australian Aborigines”, Sydney Mail (11 July 1917)

Reg Ball, “The defence of the Torres Straits – World War 2”, Sabretache 31: 2 (April–June 1990): 30–31

“Coastwatchers re-visit WW2 outposts”, Signalman 24 (1990): 20

Chris Coulthard-Clark, “Aborigines in the first AIF”, Army Journal 286 (March 1973):

Chris Coulthard-Clark, “Aborigine medal winners”, Sabretache 18: 4, (October 1977): 244–48

Chris Coulthard-Clark, “On track of the trackers”, Sabretache 21: 3 (July–Sept. 1980): 11

“Digger Aboriginal dies”, Reveille 25: 6 (1 February 1952): 10
[Obituary of Doug Grant, SERN 6020, 13th Battalion, ex-prisoner of war.]

M. Geldart, “Exercise Exmouth”, Australian Infantry 19: 1 (January 1973): 8–11

Heather Goodall, “Not such a respected soldier: The impact of World War 1 on Aborigines in New South Wales”, Teaching History 21:4 (4 December 1987): 3-6.

Robert Hall, “Aborigines and the Army: the Second World War experience”, Australian Defence Force Journal 24 (September–Oct. 1980): 28–41

Robert A. Hall, “Black Australians and the Anzac legend”, Journal of the Australian War Memorial 16 (April 1990): 51–52

Robert A. Hall, “Guarding white Australia: Aborigines’ contribution to northern surveillance during the Second World War”, Australian Defence Force Journal 29 (July–August 1981):

Keith H. Hooper, “One of us!”, Reveille 26: 11 (1 July 1953): 6–8

David Huggonson, “The dark diggers of the AIF”, The Australian Quarterly 61:3 (November-December 1980): 352-357

David Huggonson, “The dark diggers of the AIF”, The Australian Quarterly (Spring 1989)

David Huggonson, “The Aboriginal Anzac connection”, The Examiner (21 April 1990)

David Huggonson, “Yes, Bruce, there were Chinese Diggers!!”, Magazine of the Royal Australian Historical Society (February 1990)

David Huggonson, “Aborigines made sacrifices for Australia in war”, North West Star (6 April 1990)

David Huggonson, “Equal in war, but slow to be honoured by 'white' Australians they served”, The Daily Advertiser (21 April 1990)

David Huggonson, “Aboriginal Anzacs”, Southern Weekly ( 23 April 1990)

David Huggonson, “Aboriginal Anzacs landed at Gallipoli”, Army Newspaper (26 April 1990)

David Huggonson, “Our Brave 300 in the 1st AIF”, Land Rights News (May 1990)

David Huggonson, “Aboriginal Trust Accounts in Queensland : how ‘protection’ became ‘oppression’”, The Australian Quarterly, 62: 4 (1990)

David Huggonson, “Valiant digger”, Reveille 63. (March–April 1990): 23

David Huggonson, “Wagga’s Aboriginal diggers receive honours”, Reveille 64:23 (November-December 1990): 5

David Huggonson, “Villers-Bretonneux : A Strange Name for an Aboriginal Burial Ground”, Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland (1991)

David Huggonson, “Aboriginal POWs of World War One”, Newsletter of the Historical society of South Australia 105 (1993)

David Huggonson, “Aborigines and the aftermath of the Great War”, Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal, (December 1993)

David Huggonson, “Aboriginal Diggers of the 9th Brigade, First AIF”, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 79 (December 1993)

David Huggonson, “Aborigines shared life and death in Vietnam”, West Australian (14 January 1995)

John Janke, “Aborigines for King and country”, The Canberra Times (4 May 1988): 21

J.O. Langtry, “The Aboriginal and defence”, Army Journal 194 (July 1965): 34–38

W.O. Mansbridge, “Aboriginal natives: a scheme for training the Aboriginal natives in the northern portions of the Commonwealth”, Commonwealth Military Journal/ Australian Military Journal 5 (January 1914): 99–100

“Many served: AIF Aborigines”, Reveille 5: 3 (30 November 1931): 22

F.R. Morris, “The war effort of the Northern Territory Aborigines”, Australian Territories 5: 1 (January 1965): 2–10

“Operation Trachoma One”, Triad: A Defence Magazine 2 (March 1977): 20–21

W.G. Osmond, “Chief executive officer: a local legend recalls story in black and white”, Reveille 62: 17 (September 1989): 6

Rod Pratt, “Queensland’s Aborigines in the first AIF, Part 1”, Sabretache 31: 1 (January–March 1990): 18–22
[A series of articles that includes information on enlistment, payment and experiences.]

Rod Pratt, “Queensland’s Aborigines in the first AIF, Part 2”, Sabretache 31: 2 (April–June 1990): 16–19

Rod Pratt, “Queensland’s Aborigines in the first AIF, Part 3”, Sabretache 31:3 (July-September 1990): 26-29

Rod Pratt, “Queensland’s Aborigines in the first AIF, Part 4”, Sabretache 31:4 (July–September 1990): 36–38

“RSL provides home for Aboriginal widow”, Reveille 38: 12 (1 July 1965): 13

Vanessa Seekee, ‘“One Ilan man”: the Torres Strait Light Infantry’, Wartime 12 (Summer 2000): 32–39
[History and photographs; includes a reference to the pay strike in 1943.]

Bruce Topperwien, “Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who assisted the Australian Defence Force in northern Australia during World War Two”, Sabretache 34 (January–March 1993): 37–38
[Non-enlisted Aborigines who aided in the defence of Australia, now eligible for a pension from the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs.]

“Vale Captain R. W. Saunders, MBE”, Reveille 63: 21 (May–June 1990): 23