ABORIGINAL WOMEN ON THE HOME FRONT: WORLD WAR ONE

Women of Empire Exhibition is a travelling exhibition launching in February 2015. After touring Australian locations it will move to New Zealand and Canada and possibly further afield. The project is keen to include stories of Aboriginal women.

Indigenous Histories

While the experience of Aboriginal men in the AIF is receiving increasing attention the experience of their families – particularly wives, mothers and sisters on the home front has to date been relatively neglected.

Aboriginal women’s stories are in many ways the same as those of non Indigenous women – but they are also different. The difference is created by the circumstances of Aboriginal life – lived in so many instances ‘under the Act’ and subject to restrictions on personal liberty and removal of children by the state. Not only this but allotments made to them from a soldier’s pay were in some cases made to a state Protection Board rather than to the woman herself.

Information about these women is not readily forthcoming but should not be impossible to piece together starting with service records, the most readily available source supplemented by other selected primary and secondary sources and…

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Family recovers medals of Australian Aboriginal soldier

More and more of the Aboriginal WWI story comes out – nearly 1000 Indigenous Australians served in WWI and here is just one story about some returned medals – but it much deeper than that. It is about being laid to rest in the Country of your ancestors; it’s about family. The passing of the name ANZAC shows how deep the loss has been for just one family.

I am glad the medals are back home.

First World War Centenary, 1914-1918

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The family of an Australian Aboriginal soldier who was killed during the First World War have been reunited with his war medals.

Private Arthur Walker’s great-grandson, John Lochowiak, was given the medals by a relative after she saw him at the unveiling of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial.

Mr Lochowiak said: ‘Being killed overseas is a big deal for anyone, but in Aboriginal tradition where you are born is where you return when you die, so Arthur was separated from his country.

‘It’s overwhelming to think his mother received these medals after he was killed and now they are back in the right place.’

Gallipoli veteran

Private Walker enlisted in 1914 aged 32. He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915, with the 10th Battalion Australian Infantry. He survived the campaign was killed on the Western Front in 1916 serving with the 50th Battalion. He is…

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Indigenous Histories

Andrea Gerrard, now a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, has been researching Tasmanian Aboriginal soldiers from WW1 for a number of years. The names of the 64 soldiers she has identified were published in the Hobart Mercury on 9th November, prior to Remembrance Day, 2012.

The results of her research were not available when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF: The Indigenous response to World War One, was first published in 2011. However 48 of the names now made public by Mrs Gerrard were listed in this edition together with the names of a further seven men which do not appear in the Mercury list. What is exciting about Mrs Gerrard’s research is that it has enabled her to name an additional sixteen volunteers, including more members of the families of men mentioned in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers.

Mrs Gerrard’s list…

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