Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation

Many Indigenous volunteers enlisted under assumed ethnicity/cultural background; some even changed their names, place of birth and other personal details to enlist. The Defence Act (1909) prohibited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from enlisting; in 1917 the Act was amended to so that 'half castes' could enlist. While this increased Indigenous recruitment, it did not guarantee Indigenous soldiers any of the rights afforded their non-Indigenous comrades, and they returned to a life of restriction and discrimination after the war.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Participation in WWI

Designed for teachers and educators teaching the First World War, this professional development session presents current information, and empowers Queensland teachers with research tools to discover hidden stories. Indigenous Languages Coordinator Desmond Crump and Content Technician Marg Powell lead the session.

Queensland’s Indigenous servicemen of the First World War

This short digital story explores the contribution and experiences of Indigenous Queenslanders during the First World War and gives an overview of the challenges they faced due to the oppressive policies of the Protection Era and the restrictions of the Defence Act (1909). The historical context is highlighted by individual stories presented by Indigenous Languages Coordinator Desmond Crump.

Indigenous Soldiers Forum

This forum showcases research into Australia's and particularly Queensland's Indigenous service personnel. The event also connects descendants and extended families of Indigenous servicemen of the First World War with further information about their ancestors and the context of their service.

A Century Later, Where Are We Now?

Looking at Aboriginal Service in the First World War 1914 – 1918: A Century Later Where Are We Now?
Canberra historian Philippa Scarlet discusses the recognition and identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contribution to the WWI effort, how this knowledge has grown over the last 100 years, and what work there is left to be done.

Australian War Memorial presentation

Indigenous Soldiers
Ngunnawal/Gomeroi man Michael Bell is the Indigenous Liaison Officer for the Australian War Memorial. His presentation details the restrictions placed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders during the Protection Era and WWI recruitment, examining the oppressive policies and practices that controlled their lives.

Making stories known

This Panel Forum discusses personal accounts of participation and how to make manifest these stories within broader Australian history conversations. Space is given for audience questions and comments, and speakers include:

  • Ian Townsend, MC
  • Philippa Scarlett
  • Michael Bell
  • Uncle Eric Law AM
  • Des Crump, State Library of Queensland

Serving Country Forum

When war was declared in 1914, many Indigenous men were the first to try to enlist, even though it wasn’t until April 1917 that Indigenous enlistment was permitted. These young men fought valiantly for their country, they stood side by side with their fellow Australians in the hope of bringing equality to their communities. Until recently these stories and this history was virtually unknown. Native Title Barrister Joshua Creamer hosted the Forum which explored 100 years of Indigenous service with a focus on the First World War.

Uncovering Soldier Stories

Gary Oakley, Indigenous Liaison Officer of the Australian War Memorial discusses hidden soldier stories and sets the historical context for their participation.

Researcher and historian David Williams discusses the source material used to support the creation of the play Black Diggers.

The session ends with a panel where these speakers are joined by Indigenous Languages Coordinator Desmond Crump, to answer audience questions.

Art and Commemoration

This discussion focuses on the importance of the public recognition of Indigenous participation through commemorative activities as well as visual and theatrical artistic responses.

Speakers include Wesley Enoch, Artistic Director, Queensland Theatre Company and Director of Black Diggers; Dale Kerwin, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dedicated Memorial Committee Queensland; and Tony Albert, Artist and Winner of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, 2014.

Local Histories and Personal Connections

This session highlights family histories of and personal connections to Barambah/Cherboug, Yugambeh country and other areas of Queensland where Aboriginal people participated in military service.

Speakers include Uncle Eric Law, Cherbourg Elder, Veteran and Mayor of Cherbourg; Sally Lawrence, Boys of Barambah project, Cherbourg Historical Precinct Group; Rory O’Connor, Director of Yugambeh Museum; and Linda McBride-Yuke, inaugural black&write! Editor.