ATSIDMCQ - A Place in History for our brave heroes

A Place in History

For the past 18 months our committee has been negotiating with Council and the State Government about an appropriate site for the memorial.  On 15 October Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs, Glen Elmes announced that the memorial is to be erected in Anzac Square in Brisbane and will be located on the lawn in front of the Anzac Square Women’s Freize.

“Indigenous veterans have been honoured for the past eight years in a ceremony held at Anzac Square as part of National Reconciliation Week, so it’s fitting that a dedicated memorial will be built here," Cr Quirk said.

It is estimated that over 500 Indigenous Australians fought in the World War 1 despite many being refused entry into the Australian Imperial Force on the basis of their race.  Many slipped through the enlistment process by pretending to be Maori, Pacific Islander or Indian and fought for their country on many battle grounds including Gallipoli. By 1917 however, recruitment of the general population became increasingly harder and when a national referendum for conscription was lost, restrictions were cautiously eased to allow Half-castes to enlist under special conditions. Indigenous Australians in the World War  1 served served side by side with non-indigenous service men and for the first time in their lives were judged on their character rather than the colour of their skin whilst at war. After the war however they returned to find that discrimination remained or had worsened. They were once again segregated from society under continuing paternal protection policies, were prohibited from taking part in ANZAC day marches, denied returned servicemen land grants and in many cases found that the government had taken their children away whilst they defended their country.

By 1930 there was very little improvement in civil rights and by 1939 Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander Australians were divided over the issue of military service. Some believed war service would help the push for full citizenship rights and proposed the formation of Aboriginal battalions to maximize public visibility. By the  start of the World War 2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian were allowed to enlist in the armed services. It is estimated that over 3000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders fought in the World War 2. By 1944 almost every able-bodied male Torres Strait Islander had enlisted. However, they never received the same rates of pay or conditions as White soldiers. At first their pay was one-third that of regular soldiers. After a two-day "mutiny" in December 1943 this was raised to two-thirds.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women continued to enlist in Korean, Vietnam Wars and the recent modern day peace keeping efforts Australia has committed to.

War service brought greater contact than ever before between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non- indigenous communities. For non- Indigenous Australians it was a chance to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders war accelerated the process of cultural change and it was hoped that in the long term that this would ensure greater equality for them in Australian society.

Honouring the service contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to the nation is a vital part of the reconciliation. At war different cultures united due to the common love they had for this great country. Building a memorial in their honour will see a processes  undertaken that finally brings recognition to their valiant efforts but also feeds into new and richer understandings about Australian identity and history.




For further information contact
Mrs Lorraine Hatton

Co-Chair for ATSIDMQI
Phone: 0401  932 375