James Bennett was angry. As a returned soldier who had served with the 15th Battalion during the First World War, he had fought alongside Aboriginal men on Gallipoli and the Western Front in France and Belgium and was horrified at their treatment back home after the war.
In January 1933, he’d had enough.
He wrote a letter to the editor of the Cairns Post to protest against the treatment of Aboriginal people in North Queensland.
Published under the headline, “A returned soldier’s protest”, the letter took issue with the notion that “half-caste” children should be prevented from mixing with white children in state schools.
“I object very strongly to the slur cast upon my half-caste comrades of the 15th Battalion, some of whom paid the supreme penalty, both in Palestine in the light horse units and other spheres of the war,” he wrote.
“I have stood shoulder to shoulder with half-castes in Hell’s pit, on Quinn’s Post, and seen them die like the grandest of white men.
“I consider as a soldier and a white man that they have as much right to be in the State schools as the white children. The schools are there for all Australian children, whether black, white or brindle.”