Army honours Indigenous warrior spirits

The Australian Army has recognised Indigenous soldiers who died in the service of our nation during the First World War in a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial today.

The ‘honouring warrior spirits’ ceremony was initiated, developed and conducted by a group of Army Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ADF members.

The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, DSC, AM, said it was important to recognise the operational service of Army’s Indigenous soldiers.

“Today we pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War - those known to us by name, and those whose heritage was unknown,” Lieutenant General Campbell said.

“Due to the policies of the day and no recording heritage, we may never know just how many Indigenous soldiers served in the First World War.

“Our Army has a proud history of Indigenous service, with a lineage that stretches from the Boer War to operations today.

“This ceremony is an important demonstration of our Army’s commitment to reconciliation and Indigenous service, but also recognises that all of our soldiers, past and present, are equal in the service of our nation.”

The ‘honouring warrior spirits’ ceremony commenced with the collection of soil from the Lone Pine tree at the Australian War Memorial in July 2015, which was transported to Gallipoli for a traditional Indigenous ceremony in August 2015.

While at the Gallipoli Peninsula, soil was collected from a number of locations to represent the Indigenous soldiers who died during the Gallipoli campaign. Today’s final ceremony at the War Memorial marks the spiritual homecoming of these soldiers.

The Army’s Indigenous Elder Uncle Roy Mundine said the ceremony provided recognition and closure for the families of Indigenous veterans.

“In these ceremonies the soldiers are performing Indigenous traditions that have been in existence for hundreds of years. The soldiers have gathered soil from all parts of Gallipoli and are finally bringing the spirits of the fallen Indigenous soldiers back to their resting place at the Lone Pine Tree,” Uncle Roy said.

"This is a significant event for Indigenous people and relatives of the fallen soldiers. The spirits who where in the unseen world will now be finally back on Australian soil".

Senior member of the Army Indigenous Contingent, Major Joseph West said the ceremony developed by the soldiers is a significant cultural step forward for all Indigenous current and former serving personnel.

“Today is important for serving Indigenous soldiers as it shows Army’s recognition and appreciation of their service. Through recognising those Indigenous soldiers who served during the Gallipoli campaign we are acknowledging that all soldiers regardless of their cultural background contributed to the Anzac legend.”

Last updated
6 September 2016