Memorial Box 3This box explores the contribution made by indigenous Australians during the First and Second World Wars. It traces the evolving attitudes towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women, from official discouragement at first to gradual acceptance in more recent times. It also looks at the equal, and at times specialised, role played by indigenous people in today’s armed services.

Too dark for the Light Horse also considers the impact of Australia’s conflicts on the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. As part of this theme, it explores the issue of people making sacrifices on behalf of a country in which they felt marginalised.

Resource book

Download the resource book for Memorial box 3.

What’s in the box?

Here are some examples of the type of objects you will find in this Memorial Box.

Memorial box contents
Military Medal, Camouflage trousers, Waist belt, Distinguished Conduct Medal

Case study

Read the story of Reginald Saunders (500Kb PDF File), just one of several case studies you will find in this Memorial Box.


Using the objects

  • Interpret each object by discussing its features:
    • What is it?
    • What was its purpose?
    • Where was it made?
    • Are there any markings to give us clues?
    • How old is it?
    • Is it still used today?
    Students can summarize their findings on the primary (60Kb PDF file) or secondary (60Kb PDF file) activity sheets.
  • Try on the items of uniform and encourage students to go back to the situation and time the uniforms represent.
  • Test observation skills by asking a student to choose an object and to describe it without actually stating what it is, and have others select the object based on that description.
  • Observe the insignia on the buttons and badges and take a pencil rubbing (use a soft pencil).

Using the official documents

  • Interpreting the official documents by considering:
    • What is it about?
    • Who wrote it?
    • Why was it written?
    • When and where was it written?
    • Is it reliable?
    • How is it useful to historians?

Using the photos

  • Interpret photos by considering:
    • Where was the photo taken?
    • When?
    • Who is the photo of?
    • How can you tell?
    • What is it showing?
    • What are the conditions like?
    • Why was it taken?
  • Make up a story based on a photo and act it out.
  • Photocopy the photos and using balloons above the heads of people write in what they are thinking or saying.
  • Sequence the photographs to tell a story.
  • Look for links between photographs and other objects or stories within the Memorial Box.
  • Discuss the usefulness of photographs as historical evidence.

Other Activities

  • Ask students to put themselves in the position of a character they have learned about through material in the box and, as that person, to write a letter to a loved one from whom they are separated, describing their situation. See primary (70Kb PDF file) or secondary (70Kb PDF file) activity sheet.
  • As a mapping exercise, plot the locations mentioned in the box on a world map to see where Aboriginal Australians have served during conflicts.
  • Encourage students to ask their parents, grandparents and family friends to show any memorabilia and to share stories about their experience of Australia in conflict.

Book a box

While use of a box in your classroom, library or community group is free, borrowers may be asked to pay a charge for freight and handling.

Make a booking with your local agent.