The other ANZACs

A friend of mine said this morning: "Lest we Forget the futility of war, and the folly of nations that seek them out." ANZAC day is a time for remembrance, a time to learn from the mistakes of the past and to remember the sacrifices made by individuals, families and communities for political reasons so far out of their hands. AIF badge Photo from: Olivier Dirson

Lest we forget also, those who believed in their country and their peers enough to fight and die for them when their country and their peers didn't believe in them. Despite rules barring them from enrollment, more than 3000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women found a way to enlist for WWII and 500-600 for WWI. These men and women (who were considered part of the flora and fauna of Australia in many cases) trained and fought (rightly) as equals to every other Australian warrior far from home, but those lucky enough to return received none of the spoils and benefits of those other warriors. According to Reconciliation Australia: only one "soldier settler grant" was granted to any of the returned Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander warrior, they weren't allowed to drink in the pubs with their mates and in some cases weren't recognised by the Returned and Services Leagues.

World War Two in particular interrupted the Aboriginal Rights movement's momentum just as changes at a senior political level were starting to be realised. It was another four years before Aboriginals could vote in all states but WA and Queensland (17 years in those states) and 22 years following that war before the referendum that declared Aboriginal people could be counted in the census!

ANZAC day is regarded by many as the most important day in the Australian calendar. On this day, take a moment to reflect on those service men and women from all of Australia's marginal communities, no matter where from, and the sacrifices that they made to a country that didn't appreciate them fully.

If you'd like to know more, have a look at the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website or the Australian War Memorial site.