We acknowledge all our people who fought for their Country against invasion and colonisation and those who have fought overseas. We acknowledge those who lost their lives.

ANZAC Day, observed on 25 April each year, commemorates the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps' (ANZAC) first military action during World War I at Gallipoli in 1915. Over the years, it has evolved into a day of remembrance for all wars Australia has participated in, including reflecting on the contributions of Indigenous Australians in the armed forces.

Indigenous Australians have a significant history of military service, dating back to before Australia's Federation in 1901. Despite legal barriers preventing them from joining the military, many Indigenous individuals enlisted by concealing their identity or seeking sympathetic approval. Records show substantial participation in various conflicts, including the Boer War, World War I and World War II, where Indigenous Australians often had the highest participation rates relative to their population.

During World War II, entire Aboriginal communities in Northern Australia supported the war effort through defence work. Additionally, specific Indigenous units like the Torres Strait Light Infantry and the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit were formed.

However, Indigenous enlistment faced barriers due to discriminatory laws barring non-Europeans from serving. Despite this, many Indigenous individuals joined the military for promises of fair treatment, equality and opportunities not available to them in civilian life. While racism persisted within the armed forces, some Indigenous soldiers experienced improved treatment compared to their civilian lives.

Upon returning from war, Indigenous veterans often found the same or worse discrimination, colonisation and injustice as before. Despite fighting for their country and experiencing equal treatment during service, their contributions were not recognised. They were denied access to benefits and schemes provided to non-Indigenous veterans, such as land and job opportunities under the Soldier Settlement Scheme.

Recognition of Indigenous veterans' contributions has been a long-standing struggle. Recent efforts have led to the unveiling of memorials honouring Indigenous soldiers but recognition remains inconsistent. Indigenous fighters in colonial conflicts and frontier violence are often overlooked, reflecting a broader pattern of denial of Australia's history.

ANZAC Day serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand soldiers, including Indigenous Australians, in conflicts around the world. Despite facing significant barriers and discrimination, Indigenous individuals have served with courage and dedication. It is crucial to acknowledge and honour their contributions, ensuring their stories are not forgotten in the broader narrative of Australia's military history.

Acknowledgement of Country and Traditional Custodians