Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people please be aware that this resource contains images and names of deceased people.
 

National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

The date remains the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.

Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

As part of National Reconciliation Week, the Australian War Memorial is sharing stories of the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Learn more through our collection of art, film and personal stories.

Share your own experiences on social media using the hashtags
#NRW2020  #InThisTogether2020 and tag us using @AWMemorial

 

Indigenous Defence Service

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served in every conflict and commitment involving Australian defence contingents since Federation, including both world wars and the intervals of peace since the Second World War.

Watch this video, Indigenous Anzacs, to learn more.

Defending Country

In Episode 5 of the From a whisper to a bang! podcast series Megan Spencer explores the extraordinary yet unheralded story of Indigenous service and sacrifice for Australia – and the important recovery work being done to ‘square the ledger’, when it comes to this ‘quieter’ aspect of Australia’s military history.

 

 

Researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service

The Memorial's collections and website contain a wealth of material which can help you research the service and wartime experiences of your relatives.

Learn more

reg

Research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service in Australia’s armed forces has established that Indigenous people have served in military uniform from at least the time of Federation. In fact, we know of three men who served even before 1901, and pictorial evidence suggests that there may have been others.

Personal stories

Read some of the fascinating stories of Indigenous servicemen and servicewomen and discover their long history of defending Country.

kathleen

Read about the life and service of Lance Corporal Kathleen (Kath) Walker and others like her. 

dickerson

With his complexion noted as "dark" on his enlistment papers, James Dickerson joined the 10th Light Horse Regiment in 1914. His brother Harry soon followed joining the 12th reinforcements to the 10th Light Horse in 1915. Read more about James, Harry and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anzacs.

 

no less

The Memorial Shop has a selection of quality publications dealing with Indigenous service in the Australian military – available for purchase now through our online store.

Art, country and culture

Art is a central part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The art in the Memorial collection teaches us about the world’s oldest living culture and the important place Indigenous Australians have played and continue to play in the defence of our nation.   

In 2017, the Memorial commissioned senior male artists of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands to create an artwork to tell their story of Aboriginal Australians defending Country. Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa [Country and Culture will be protected by spears], is now on display in the Memorial’s Orientation Gallery.

Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa [Country and Culture will be protected by spears]

Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa [Country and Culture will be protected by spears]

Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa

Indigenous Liaison Officer Michael Bell explains the significance of the painting Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa [Country and Culture will be protected by spears], painted by artists from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in South Australia.

“Everyday superheroes”

In 2012, Tony Albert became the Memorial's first official war artist to be attached to the Army's Regional Surveillance Force North West Mobile Unit (NORFORCE).

“I saw the recruits as everyday superheros … they had this incredible power … they wanted to stand up in their communities and be proud and strong.”

View artwork here

norforce

NORFORCE recruits, 2012. AWM P11478.037

deadly

Learn about Tony Albert, his art and his work as an official war artist with the Army's Regional Force Surveillance Unit, North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE). 

forgotten heroes

'Forgotten soldiers', Tony Albert, 2014
vintage playing cards, metal.

Tony Albert's emotional response to the story of his Grandfather’s near death experience has drawn him to explore the role fate plays in determining who we are, black or white. Lean more.

 

Time Marches On

Artist Bronwyn Bancroft is a descendent of the Djanbun clan of the Bundjalung nation. She made this portrait to remember her father Owen, hand colouring a photograph which she took at an Anzac Day march in Sydney. She wanted to honour her family as well as comment on the Indigenous military experience in Australia.

Bronwyn’s father was the only Aboriginal man in his division, but she remembered how much he loved meeting up with his mates, and how they adored him too. Bronwyn once asked her father why he went to war. His response was, “It’s my country too!”

Learn more

time marches on

Bronwyn Bancroft, Time marches on, 2010, mixed media, 101 x 67 x 3.2 cm, AWM ART94626

For our Country

A sculpture commemorating Indigenous servicemen and servicewomen was dedicated on the Memorial’s grounds in 2019. Artist Daniel Boyd aimed to create an inclusive space: “there are many different Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander nations in Australia, and they all have a different understanding of their different experiences … each nation is unified in this place.” Read more here.

dan

Artist, Daniel Boyd with his work For our Country, a sculptural pavilion commemorating the military service and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have fought to protect their Country.

memorial

For our Country is a sculptural pavilion set behind a ceremonial fire pit within a circle of stones. Behind the fire pit is a wall of two-way mirrored glass that reflects the viewer and the Australian War Memorial. This wall is set with thousands of transparent lenses, representing our perception and highlighting our incomplete understanding of time, history, and memory.

 

Colonial Proclamation Board

The Australian War Memorial recently acquired a lithograph of an early piece of government propaganda from colonial Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). The lithograph depicts colonial-era soldiers, Aboriginal people and material relating to Tasmania’s frontier history.  

Learn more about Governor Davey's Proclamation

Governor Davey’s Proclamation

Artist unknown, Governor Davey’s Proclamation to the Aborigines 1816, lithograph, hand-coloured, 46 x 28 cm, c. 1866. AWM2019.1099.1