The Memorial’s collection contains thousands of photographs, historic films, sound files and oral histories. Some of these items relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be seen below, while others are not currently visible due to cultural sensitivities and copyright restrictions. Members of the public are able to submit requests to view this material.

The First World War 1914–1918:

Our Island Heroes

In 2019, The Australian War Memorial commissioned Tasmanian Aboriginal photographer Ricky Maynard to create a series of photographs on the Furneaux Islands in the Bass Strait. The aim was to document the legacy of Aboriginal servicemen who left Country from Cape Barren Island and Flinders Island to fight in the First World War, three of whom did not return.


View the online exhibition 


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander military service

The Memorial's collection includes images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people serving country from the Boer War to today.

Framed studio portrait of an Indigenous serviceman, wearing a Field ambulance armband.

Studio portrait of three unidentified Indigenous Australian Army soldiers.

Corporal (Cpl) Thomas Henry (Tom) 'Buddy' Lea, 10 Platoon, D Company, 6 RAR moving cautiously into a Viet Cong village. Cpl Lea is an Indigenous soldier of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander heritage. 25 June 1966.

 Aboriginal serviceman Private Drummond, Army, (right) fights in a combined Navy, Army and Air Force boxing competition. 39 Mile, NT. 31 December 1943.

Aboriginal serviceman, WX28716 Private Victor Nelson, 17 Platoon, D Company, 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion, holding a shovel over his shoulder on John’s Track, Tarakan, Borneo. 14 May 1945.

Torres Strait Islander QX6559 Private Victorianno (Victor) Blanco, a pearl diver from from Thursday Island, Queensland, asks a policewoman for directions in London.

Informal portrait of Brendan Yunupingu, Regional Surveillance Unit North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE). One of a series of photographs taken by Tony Albert, the Australian War Memorial's first official artist to NORFORCE.

Gunner Ernie Widders of Armidale, NSW, an indigenous soldier, takes time out during a break in operations in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam to write a letter. May 1971.

Aboriginal serviceman, VX35999 Private Samuel Alexandra Peacock (Sam) Lovett, 6th Reinforcements, 2/5th Battalion, and his niece, 95994 Aircraftwoman (ACW) Alice Lovett, an Aboriginal servicewoman, standing on a Melbourne street. 1942.

Private (Pte) Christopher Wilson Carter. This is one of a series of photographs taken by the Darge Photographic Company which had a permit to take photographs at the Broadmeadows and Seymour army camps during the First World War.

Lieutenant (Lt) Thomas Currie Derrick, VC DCM (right) shaking hands with Lt R. W. Saunders (left), as they congratulate each other following their successful graduation from the Officer's Cadet Training Unit at Seymour. Lt Saunders was the first Aboriginal commissioned in the Australian Army.

Private (Pte) Gilbert George (Gil) Green, an Aboriginal National Serviceman who served in Vietnam 1970 as a rifleman with the 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR). 

Portrait of Tommy 'Negus' Green, Prisoner of War at Stalag XIIIc at Hammelburg, smoking a pipe. Green, an Aboriginal serviceman, had been named 'Negus' by the German guards at the camp. He is probably NX22784 Thomas Harold Green, 2/1 Battalion of Collarenebri, NSW (born at Booyulgil [Baryulgil]).

Sapper (Spr) Clement William (Bill) Coolburra, an Aboriginal serviceman of Palm Island, Qld, gouges a fighting pit from the earth at a jungle camp during Operation Roundhouse, a search-and-destroy mission against the Viet Cong. 9 February 1966.

Aboriginal serviceman Private S K J 'Len' Lenoy attempts to clear the bar in a pole vault competition. He is participating in a British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) interzone athletics meeting, at Anzac Park, Kure, Japan. May 1950. 

Aircraftman Leonard Victor 'Len' Waters in full winter flying kit, while a student at No. 2 Initial Flying Training School. 1943.

Lance Corporal (L Cpl) Sarob Sambo, a Torres Strait Islander and ex paratrooper, of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade. Malaya 1957.

NORFORCE recruit Benjamin Gurruwiwi. One of a series of photographs taken by Tony Albert, the Australian War Memorial's first official artist for the North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE). May 2012.

Aboriginal servicewoman, VF513768 Corporal (Cpl) Helen Annie McDonald, Australian Women's Army Service. c1943. 

Portrait of 56212 Private Graham Peter Taylor, an Aboriginal serviceman, who served in Vietnam in 1971 with 4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR).

Studio portrait of 3662 Private Harold Arthur Cowan, an Aboriginal soldier in 6th Light Horse Regiment (LHR), with his 1st cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Clarke (nee Williams) and her neice Hazel Jean Williams (later Cheetham, Elizabeth’s niece; Harold’s cousin Leonard’s child).

Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) David Valentine Paul DFC RAAF

Private (Pte) Don Pickering an Aboriginal serviceman quietly smokes a cigarette and holds his Owen gun as he waits for a RAF helicopter lift, that will take him into the jungle of Perak for the start of a 14 day patrol. Malaya. 1943.

Aboriginal servicewoman, QF267190 Lance Corporal (L Cpl) Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, a communication worker with the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS). 

Lance Corporal (L/Cpl) Clive Kevin 'Joe' Vea-Vea outside a sandbag covered dugout. Korea. 21 May 1953.

Private (Pte) George Leonard and Pte Harold West, 14th Reinforcements to the 2/1st Battalion, embarking at Sydney, NSW. 2 November 1941.

Private (Pte) William "Nip" Simon (left) and 6551 Pte Harold Howard Maher. c.1917

Aboriginal serviceman, Corporal (Cpl) Donald George (Don) Beale, who served in Vietnam. Cpl Beale's father and two uncles served in the Army during the Second World War.

Private Thomas William Rutter an Aboriginal serviceman of Gulargambone who served in the 2/33 Battalion. c.1940

Private (Pte) Miller Mack, 50th Battalion. c.1916

Members of the 2/18th Australian Field Workshop. Note that all men except two (Jackomos and Cook) are Aboriginal. Left to right, back row: Private (Pte) Alick James McDonald, Bob Cook, Pte Michael (Mick) Laughton, Pte Harry Bray, Pte Alec Turner. Front row: Private (Pte) Alec Kruger, Pte Alick Jackomos, James Smith. 

Labour units

As well as serving in the military, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people contributed to the war by supporting service on the home front. 

During the Second World War the Australian Army and RAAF depended heavily on Aboriginal labour in northern Australia. Indigenous Australians worked on construction sites, in army butcheries, and on army farms. They drove trucks, handled cargo, and provided general labour around camps. The RAAF sited airfields and radar stations near missions that could provide Aboriginal labour. At a time when Australia was drawing on all its reserves of men and women to support the war effort, the contribution of Indigenous Australians was vital.

These men were employed by 3 Australian Field Butchering Company, AIF. They are "salting" the hides of animals killed at the butchery. NT October 1942.

Aboriginal orderlies at 121 Australian General Hospital assist in treatment of the sick and wounded. Orderly "Tommy" bandages the arm of "Hector" who was injured when Katherine was bombed. Katherine, NT. 24 November 1942.

A demonstration in spear throwing. Darwin, NT. 10 July 1942.

Aboriginal children showing their knowledge of sky-watching to Flight Lieutenant Evans and Flying Officer Ray of a RAAF Catalina aircraft Squadron. 

Corporal (Cpl) Dolly, the No. 1 member of the Aboriginal Women's Hygiene Squad at the 69th Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) Barracks.

Personnel of 4th Army Troop Company, Royal Australian Engineers at work on the offices for Administration Headquarters. Alice Springs,NT.

Men attached to the 4th Army Troop Campany, Royal Australian Engineers working a winch to haul material up a hill. Alice Springs, NT.

Worker signs for his pay with a fingerprint. Katherine, NT. 25 September 1943. 

These men are working on a pineapple plantation on a farm conducted by No.1 Australian Farm Company, Australian Army Service Corps. Adelaide River, NT.

To provide meat for Allied soldiers in the North West area the Army established its own slaughter years, cooling chambers and delivery system north of Katherine, NT. 

To provide meat for Allied soldiers in the North West area the Army established its own slaughter years, cooling chambers and delivery system north of Katherine, NT. Women were employed on light duties such as "salting" hides. 

The Officer commanding, 69th Australian Women's Army Service barracks and the Australian Women's Army Service member in charge of Aboriginal staff working at the barracks. Adelaide River, NT. 4 September 1944.


You can view photos from our events on the Memorial Flickr account. These events include Last Post Ceremonies, NAIDOC and Reconciliation Week events, tours and functions. 


Defence Senior Leadership Group tour, 10 November 2020. Photograph taken by David Whittaker, AWM2020.4.105.03


'For Our Country' sculpture dedication, 28 March 2019. Photograph taken by Adam Kropinski-Myers, AWM2019.4.56.50


Defence Senior Leadership Group tour, Photograph taken by David Whittaker AWM2020.4.105.18


Royal Australian Air Force Centenary Welcome Ceremony at the For our Country memorial, 29 March 2021. Photograph taken by Marcus Fillinger AWM2021.4.17.43


"Our mob served" book launch, 28 March 2019. Photograph taken by Marcus Fillinger AWM2019.4.57.37


Major General Marcus Thompson read the story of Private Christopher Wilson Carter at the Last Post Ceremony, 10 November 2020. Photograph taken by David Whittaker AWM2020.4.105.54


ANZAC DAY 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commemorative Ceremony. Photograph taken by Adam Kropinski-Myers  AWM2021.4.31.11

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