The contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have served their country was acknowledged at a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial as part of NAIDOC Week.
This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Serving Country – Centenary and Beyond highlighting the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Acting Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs addressed the ceremony and laid a wreath in honour of Indigenous servicemen and women, past and present.
“This year’s theme provides an opportunity to reflect on the service of all Indigenous Australians, not only those that have served in the ADF and its forebear organisations, but those Indigenous members of the Australian Public Service who have also served as part of the wider Defence organisation,” VADM Griggs said.
More than 3,000 Indigenous Australians enlisted during World War II. A further 150 to 200 served as de-facto servicemen and patrolled and performed other military duties along the north Australian coast while an additional 3,000 Indigenous Australians supported the World War II defence effort as civilian labourers.
“This is a time where we should not shy away from our history, as difficult as that may be, but nor should we be shy in talking about the very real advances we are making across Defence as we seek a culture of inclusion and not of exclusion,” VADM Griggs said.
“I am enormously proud of being part of an ADF and a broader Defence team that is genuinely proud of the contributions that Indigenous Australians make and have made to our security. More broadly, I am proud to be part of a team that is driving a culture that includes.”
During the service two flags belonging to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were presented by Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, Major General Shane Caughey, and two serving indigenous members to the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson.
The flags were flown at the Australian Headquarters at Al Minhad Air Base last year during NAIDOC Week – the first time Indigenous flags have been flown in an operational zone.