I’ve taken a break from my regular business posts to focus on a more personal topic.
For the benefit of my international readers, or around 15 % of my site traffic, 25 April is commemorated annually in Australia to recognise current and former military personnel’s service. The date was chosen as on 25 April 1915 the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), along with British, French, and Indian soldiers waded ashore at Gallipoli in World War One.
As a veteran and an Indigenous Australian the day has always been significant for me. Part of this stems from my service, which has shaped me for better or for worse into the man I am today, but also the service of my family members. Several of my cousins are still serving within the Australian Defence Force.
Indeed, my family history of military service was profiled by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation a few years ago. For those of you that are interested, the link is below.
While my father served for over twenty years, I choose to focus this update on my grandfather and as he has passed for cultural reasons will not name him.
Granddad served in the Australian Army during World War II, Korea, Malaya during the Communist Emergency and in Borneo during the Confrontation with Indonesia. Completing his service as a Warrant Officer Class Two in 1974 and a couple of years ago had the pleasure to meet a few of his former Army colleagues. All of them were open about their respect for him as a man and as a soldier.
While Granddad found acceptance within the Army, the majority of his service occurred prior to the 1967 referendum. Which as an Indigenous Australian meant that he was not automatically granted the same rights as Non Indigenous Australians. These excluded rights included, being allowed to vote, to attend school, to go into hotels, and to own property. While, Indigenous Australians could be awarded a Certificate of Exemption to be granted the rights listed above, the award of the Certificate was conditional and could be revoked at any time.
One of the reasons for the shift in public opinion to amend the Constitution was the military service of approximately 4,000 Indigenous Australians during World War Two. When they returned to Australia post war, they found that the opportunities that were open to them within the military were closed within the wider Australian community. For instance Grandad could only find work post war as a pearl diver, which led him to re-enlist in the Australian Army. Now this disgraceful treatment was not only confined to Australia, as Johnny Cash’s famous ballad about the Native American United States Marine Corps veteran Ira Hayes shows.
In recent years, the military service of Indigenous Australian veterans has been recognised by the broader Australian community with a play, several books and the unveiling of a war memorial in 2013. Along with the very moving memorial unveiled in Anzac Square in Brisbane last year.
Today I pay my respect to all those men and women that have served and continue to do so. While acknowledging the Indigenous Australians veterans that served before me and the lasting impact of their sacrifice for the opportunities now extended to both me and my children as full Australian citizens.
Lest we forget.