The benefits of cultural awareness training for workplaces are often spoken about. We talk about the role that cultural awareness training has in improving workplace culture; in improving both internal and external workplace communications; and in better servicing Aboriginal clients.
But we don’t often talk about the effects that extend beyond the workplace.
Reading social media these days is hard. Everyone has an opinion about everything, and people seem much more comfortable expressing racism from the safety of the impersonal internet. Just in the last few days, I've read comments online saying a young man in a remote Northern Territory community deserved to be shot to death by police, and how it was ‘totally wrong’ to close the Uluru climb because ‘it never hurt the rock’ and ‘the Aboriginals are lying about cultural significance’. Today, I read a post that could have been from 100 years ago: a man advertised that he and his wife ‘would like to help fire victims and have a spare room if you need it … no blacks or immigrants’. This is all on top of the everyday deluge of comments rife with racial hate and myths about Aboriginal people that are perpetuated by print and social media.
Fear of the unknown and a lack of education are the primary reason these types of posts are so prevalent. Often, keyboard warriors make these alarming statements because they've never had an opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture—they know no alternative to the myths and ignorance they enthusiastically spout. I've been delivering Aboriginal cultural awareness training for many, many years and I've found that most people become much more accepting of Aboriginal people and culture and open to Reconciliation, when they learn the story of the Aboriginal peoples, and how we got to where we are today.
Many participants have never heard about Australia’s history with Aboriginal people from an Aboriginal perspective. Cultural awareness training is the first time they've heard the stories of people from the Stolen Generation, or of families forced to live on missions, with no control over any aspect of their lives. ‘Why weren’t we taught this in school?’ is a common response when we talk about past government policies, about the denial of Aboriginal people’s rights to practice culture and the way they were treated by non-Aboriginal people—about how in the past racism was so systematic, and how in many ways it continues to be.
Cultural awareness training in the workplace can support people to take a stand against the culturally insensitive—or downright racist—posts that are put out into the world every day. It arms people with the knowledge to see through misinformation, so that they don't help spread the myths that fuel hate against our First Nations. By giving people knowledge, training gives people the confidence to challenge the racist rhetoric we all seem to have become so complacent about.
Often employers don’t think they'll benefit from cultural awareness training for their staff because they don’t service Aboriginal people or have any Aboriginal staff. But consider the wider impact: training your staff not only increases their capacity, which strengthens your business, but also, in the case of cultural awareness training, can help protect your reputation. Often, misguided racist comments are made by employees on their workplace social media profile, and I watch as offended readers tag the employers asking them to take action, or demand others boycott them. It's something to consider: if making a positive social contribution is not reason enough to consider cultural awareness training for your workplace, then the potential PR implications if you don't might be.
One of the most common questions we get asked at Wingaru is how to engage the Aboriginal community in projects. Whether it be getting someone to consult on a project or participate in classroom activities, it is clear that people want to have the input of Aboriginal people. Where we can, we support people to make these connections and approach this in the right way - that is meaningful consultation where Aboriginal people have a real voice at all stages of the project and are treated respectfully including payment when appropriate. This is a topic that is written about often - Aunty Tricia talks about this issue in this months Ask Aunty and Wingaru's friend Nathan “Mudyi” Sentance, a Wiradjuri man from the Mowgee clan, has previously shared his view about it on his blog 'Archival Decolonist' (https://archivaldecolonist.com/). With Nathan's permission I have shared his post below and I encourage you to head over and check out the rest of his blog where he very generously shares his knowledge and perspectives about the importance of the inclusion of First Nation voices in the cultural and historical narratives conveyed by cultural and memory institutions and the need to balance the biases and misinterpretations of Aboriginal culture and people that has been previously set by these institutions.
Follow Nathan's work on social media:
Collaboration or Exploitation
“Indigenous folks, be cautious of people who want to “pick your brain” over coffee and lunch. There are people out there stealing ideas and boosting their careers for the price of a double double.” (Monkman, 2017, tweet)
People often seek my feedback, ask me questions or want my opinion on projects they are working on that relate to First Nations culture, history and/or people and I am happy to help if I can, but only if I feel their requests or projects are not exploitative. Here are some of my personal suggestions on how to ensure your projects or requests for input are less exploitative and more collaborative. Note: this mostly directed toward research projects or projects in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector.
These are just a small number of suggestions I have to ensure your projects or requests for input are less exploitative and more collaborative.
By Nathan Sentance
DiAngelo, Robin. “White Fragility” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3, no.3, 2011, pp 54-70
Finch, Sam Dylan. “9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensive” Everyday Feminism. 29 May. 2017, https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/05/allies-say-this-instead-defensive/
First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNICG). “Pathways to First Nations’ data and information sovereignty” Indigenous Data Sovereignty, Edited by Tahu Kukutai and John Taylor, ANU publishing, 2016, pp. 137-156.
Justice, Daniel Heath. “All mouth and no ears: Settlers with Opinions” The Conversation, 20 Sep. 2017.
Monkman, Lenard (lenardmonkman1). “Indigenous folks,
Be cautious of people who want to “pick your brain” over coffee and lunch. There are people out there stealing ideas and boosting their careers for the price of a double double.” 4 Dec. 2017, 7:53 AM. Tweet.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. “whiteness epistemology and Indigenous representation” Whitening Race: Essays in social and cultural criticism. Edited by Aileen Moreton-Robinson. Aboriginal Studies Press, 2004.
Sentance, Nathan. “Reframing community consultation” Archival Decolonist. 8 Sep. 2017 https://archivaldecolonist.com/2017/09/08/reframing-community-consultation/
Sentance, Nathan. “Maker unknown and the decentring First Nations People” Archival Decolonist. 21 Jul. 2017 https://archivaldecolonist.com/2017/07/21/maker-unknown-and-the-decentring-first-nations-people/
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies : Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd ed., Zed Books, 2012.
Watson, Irene. Looking at you looking at me — : an aboriginal history of the south-east. Volume 1. I. Watson Nairne, 2002
Like most western countries mainstream Australia has four distinct seasons, summer, autumn, winter and spring, with each of these beginning on a specific date marked on the calendar. But does this system accurately reflect the different weather experienced around the year in different parts of our vast and diverse country?
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities seasons are based on thousands of years of detailed observation of the surrounding environment. By studying the night sky and cycles of water, plants and animals communities were able to identify variations and accurately predict recurring seasonal changes. The seasons identified varied according to geographic location, ecological context and cultural interpretation. This knowledge of nature was recorded into stories, song, dance and ceremony and passed along to ensure sustainability for land and general well-being.
For the people of Dharawal Country, southwest of Sydney, there are six distinct seasons, Gadalung Marool (January-March), Banamurraiyung (April-June), Tugarah Tuli (June-July), Tugarah Gunyamarri (August), Murraiyunggory (September-October) and Goraymurrai (November-December). Each of these seasons is marked by changes to weather, plants and animals. This can be seen with Gadalung Marool, also known as the time of Burran, when male burra (kangaroos) become aggressive as the female burra start having babies.
To learn more about the different animal changes and weather patterns that signify seasons in the Dharawal calendar with your students download our Aboriginal Seasons Dharawal Language Group activity.
The Australian curriculum has broadened the definition of texts to include materials that are written, spoken, multimodal, and in print or digital form. It might be thought that the more modern texts are more relevant to the students of today. However, one form of text - that has existed in continuous use for millennia - lends itself to the teaching of all text types and KLAs – that is, the Dreaming Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Dreaming stories can be explored as an oral tradition or a written text and may include words from the originating Indigenous language (for example “waradah”).
Dreaming stories often contain aspects from three main text types, being imaginative, informative and persuasive. Their purpose was to pass on information about culture, language and custom from those with experience to a younger, learning audience. To this end the stories needed to entertain as well as to retell, to instruct, to explain and to argue.
Dreaming stories can be a great tool in sharing and teaching Aboriginal perspectives across a number of key learning areas. For example, in STEM subjects, Dreaming stories can be used to:
In History and Geography, Dreaming stories can provide an Aboriginal perspective on:
Being respectful of the stories you use as well as the people who own them is key to successfully including Dreaming stories in your classroom.
Traditionally these stories were used to share knowledge and pass information from Elders to the next generation. They carried lore, beliefs and practical knowledge so that culture and lifestyle could continue from one generation to the next.
In modern Australia, Dreaming stories continue to play an important role in sharing, maintaining and supporting the continuation of Aboriginal culture. They are still used today among Aboriginal communities to share knowledge as they have always been used but they are also a great tool in sharing culture and knowledge with non-Aboriginal people.
There are a couple of things to remember when using Dreaming stories as a teaching tool.
1. Choose stories that have been published or broadcast by reputable sources in conjunction with Aboriginal people
The stories shared with non-Aboriginal people may be varied to protect sacred knowledge that shouldn’t be shared beyond the Traditional Owners. Because of this there are often a few versions of the same story. The versions of stories that are shared in quality books or shared through well-known broadcasters have been developed in consultation with the owners of the stories and the appropriate versions used. When choosing sources for Dreaming stories look for acknowledgement of the story origin. Quality resources will list the Language Group and the people involved in the production of the resource.
2. Acknowledge the origin of the story and the people who own it
It is important when sharing Dreaming stories that you acknowledge where the story came from. The story belongs to the Language Group where the story originates. It is their culture, their knowledge and their intellectual property. Spend some time talking about the Language Group – name them, locate their country on a map and acknowledge that they have shared the story. Choosing quality resources will support you in doing this. Some stories originate from more than one mob, for instance a number of Language Groups have a story about a frog that drinks all the water. It is important to make sure you acknowledge the correct owners of the version you are using.
The month of September focusses on bringing awareness to suicide prevention with two key events, World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) and R U OK? Day (12 September).
This year both days will focus on suicide being a community issue and the role each of us play in coming together in collaboration to address suicide. Here in Australia suicide rates have increased by 13% over the last decade, and it continues to be the leading cause of death among young Australians. Of our youth dying by suicide, one in every four is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Causes of suicide are complex, even more so for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who are nearly three times more likely to be psychologically distressed than their non-Aboriginal peers. Contributing factors to their negative social and emotional wellbeing include racism, social exclusion, intergenerational trauma and separation from culture and identity issues.
As Australians, there is much we can do to work together in addressing these negative factors and to help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People feel safe, supported and part of the community. Two significant areas we all have the power to address, either as individuals or communities, are reconciliation and racism.
Reconciliation through Education
The truth about Australia's history since colonisation is difficult and confronting, but it is our shared story and while we are unable to change the pain and anger many experience we at least need to acknowledge it and understand the intergenerational trauma caused. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and younger generations about this history, building a shared understanding, so that as a nation we can achieve true reconciliation. Only from here can we can begin to reduce the impact of intergenerational trauma on the wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
Celebrating and reinforcing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s knowledge across our school curriculum and throughout community life also plays a large role in reconciliation. Providing all Australians with the opportunity to engage in respect and recognition of the world’s oldest continuous living culture and encouraging a sense of cultural identity and pride among Aboriginal children, enhancing their psychological resilience.
Racism. It stops with me
Racism is one of the main factors negatively impacting the social and emotional wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and appallingly, racism, both perceived and actually experienced, is increasing in Australia.
Stopping racism requires commitment and participation by everyone. We need to raise awareness of the issue and challenge our own behaviours and expressions of racial discrimination, particularly subtle racism. We also need to help kids identify racism and provide techniques for stopping it.
Within the workplace, cultural awareness training is required to ensure an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. By learning about the importance of family and community, cultural sensitivities, the impact of the Stolen Generations and the role of intergenerational grief and trauma, organisations improve workplace culture and are able to better service Aboriginal clients and students. For teachers, cultural awareness training gives them the confidence to bring more Aboriginal perspectives into the classroom, increasing the number of kids who get to learn and celebrate Aboriginal perspectives, reducing racism.
To learn more about how we can help you with including Aboriginal perspectives in your classroom or to book cultural awareness training email us at email@example.com
We often hear the phrase “Australia’s dark past” in reference to unpleasant aspects of post-colonial history in this country. It includes the deaths of Aboriginal People through disease spread by Europeans; the injuries and deaths caused by conflicts between the expanding colony and the traditional owners; Indigenous incarceration at a rate far higher than their proportion of the population; the theft of wages for forced work and the stealing of children from their families in the pursuit of assimilation.
The conflicts between the European invaders and Traditional Custodians are commonly referred to as the “Frontier Wars”. It is another term used to describe conflict between the European invaders and the traditional owners and conjures a picture of frontiers the world over where territories have been disputed and fought for.
The advanced weaponry of the European invaders usually saw a higher number of fatalities on the Aboriginal side of the conflicts.
Many of these conflicts have now been declared “massacres”. The most heinous of these aren’t adequately described by the term “Frontier War”. They were the massacres that went beyond disputes over property or territory and saw white law enforcers exceed their legal duty and undertake murders of innocent, unarmed Aboriginal People. And while this occurred outside the limits of Australian law, the white perpetrators were rarely brought to justice.
It is hard to imagine now that massacres of Aboriginal families could have been officially sanctioned but that was the case less than a century ago near Coniston in Central Australia.
Coniston was a cattle station in Central Australia. 1928 was a time of severe drought which meant many people - Anmatyerr mob, Kaytetje and Warlpiri - migrated to an area near the cattle property known for water springs (Yaruku and Yurrkuru).
Randall Stafford, a pastoralist, had built Coniston Station and claimed the Yurrkuru spring as part of his land. The drought in 1928 had caused him to sell his cattle and lay off his worker, Fred Brooks. Brooks set up his camp next to Yurrkuru and was the first white man that many of the new arrivals to the soakage had ever seen.
But one of the men who arrived, an Aboriginal man known as Bullfrog, was familiar with white people and keen for some tobacco. He sent his wife, Napurrurla, to the white man’s tent to ask for tobacco. Brooks made her do jobs to earn the tobacco and when she didn’t return it was believed that Bullfrog had lost his promised wife to the white man. He was so angry he went to Brooks’ tent and killed him. He quickly buried the body and fled the area.
After Brooks’ body was found the police in Alice Springs sent mounted Constable George Murray (who was also Protector of Aborigines) to Coniston Station. He had orders to find who murdered Fred Brooks, and bring them into town so he put together a posse of station workers to help him.
They found a group of Aboriginal people near the waterhole and opened fire. A few escaped to the hills but everyone else was shot and killed. Murray was supposed to question witnesses and bring suspects into Alice Springs. But, unable to find Bullfrog, he undertook a series of reprisals killing between 14 August and 18 October. Over 60 Aboriginal men, women and children were killed over the following months.
This massacre was illegal by Australian law but the perpetrators were never charged and their actions were considered to be in “self-defence”. This August we remember the fallen at Coniston. Reflecting on one tragedy helps to personalise the staggering statistic that nearly 250 massacres occurred in Australia between 1788 and 1930!
A project to map the locations and scale of massacres across Australia is being undertaken by the University of Newcastle. You can view the results online at: https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres/map.php
The Guardian also has used the same data to create a map of sites where violence occurred on the Australian frontier: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/ng-interactive/2019/mar/04/massacre-map-australia-the-killing-times-frontier-wars
These tools can help to educate all Australians about the truth of the land we now share. We need to confront this dark past in order to make a better future.
Next Sunday, 4 August, is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, a day for all Australians to show their support for and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The weeks surrounding the day provide classrooms with a great opportunity to explore this year’s theme, “We Play, We Learn, We Belong”, and promote the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Here are 5 deadly activities to celebrate National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day with your kids:
Activity 1: Our FREE downloadable colouring-in sheet.
Get your kids thinking more about this year’s theme with our free downloadable colouring-in sheet. Have a discussion about what each of the topics mean as they colour in each section. Download available below.
Activity 2: Play traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander games with our FREE downloadable instructions.
Have a blast with your kids playing one or more of the traditional games using our detailed instructions. Download available below.
Activity 3: Learn more about traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander toys and games.
Log in to Wingaru Kids or Wingaru Bubs and watch our “Traditional Toys” video and discover what they were made from and how they were played.
For primary school teachers, complete the STEM activities with your students and test their knowledge with digital activities.
For early learning educators, print out our “Traditional Toys” poster and matching card game or play a digital matching game identifying if a toy is modern or traditional.
Don’t have a Wingaru Kids account? Primary schools can access our “Traditional Toys” lesson by requesting a free trial of the platform www.wingaru.com.au/wingaru-kids-trial.html
Activity 4: Celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people
What great things are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people doing in your school or local community? Celebrate these by creating artworks representing their achievements and display them in your classroom.
Activity 5: Celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture with storytelling
Invite a member of your local Aboriginal community into your classroom to share a Dreaming story.
For more Dreaming stories from around Australia log into Wingaru Kids or Wingaru Bubs and access videos, digital activities and printables.
Tip 1: Participate in a simultaneous learning experience with “All Together Now for Reconciliation”.
Across Australia children in early learning centres, primary and high schools, can simultaneously join the reconciliation movement and learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices via a new exciting online platform we have developed in partnership with Reconciliation NSW.
“All Together Now for Reconciliation” is a simultaneous classroom experience specially created to provide easy and accessible cultural content and is a great way to engage kids in activities for National Reconciliation Week. Each stage explores the 2019 Schools Reconciliation Challenge theme, “Speaking and Listening from the Heart”. Students investigate truth telling and what it takes to walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with courage and pride.
To participate join us online at www.togethernow.com.au. Available until 30 June 2019.
Tip 2: Learn more about this year’s theme.
Visit the Reconciliation Australia website to learn more about the 2019 theme “Grounded in Truth, Walk Together with Courage”. While you’re there download this year’s poster to display in your classroom.
Tip 3: Have an open discussion in your classroom.
What does reconciliation mean to your students? Encourage your students to explores the five dimensions of reconciliation as identified by the State of Reconciliation in Australian 2016 Report – historical acceptance, race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity and unity.
Tip 4: Learn more about the significance of the dates at the beginning and end of National Reconciliation Week.
National Reconciliation Week is held on the same dates every year – 27 May to 3 June. Both these dates mark two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, which gave the Australian Government the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to include them in the Census; and the High Court Mabo decision, which saw the concept of terra nullius overturned.
Our Wingaru Kids platform provides informative and engaging lessons on both these important dates with our “1967 Referendum” and “Mabo” lessons. Each lesson includes a lesson plan, curriculum outcomes, video, digital activities and printable resources.
Tip 5: Check out one of the Reconciliation activities
National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. Support your students to attend local events and invite them to share their experiences with the class.
Like most school parents, making sure my child gets a healthy lunch box and a breakfast that is capable of seeing him through a busy morning of learning is a challenge that I face daily. I worry about how much Mr 7 eats and also the quality of the things he is willing to eat. Hot dogs and happy meals just won’t cut it, despite what he tells me!
I am really lucky to have an amazing support network to draw on and when Mr 7 stopped eating breakfast I shared my frustration with the amazing Jenny Kahn, a Ngiyampaa Wailwan woman and the owner of the delicious breakfast cereal company: The Unexpected Guest. This is an Aboriginal owned company that produces the most amazing muesli and health bars. In her usual low-key way, Jenny told me about her kids, who are all grown up, and the things she did to get them through this same stage. And as has always been the way with Aboriginal People, her stories taught me some new approaches to breakfast and our mornings are much less stressful.
I mentioned the advice from Jenny (which I have shared below) to some of the mums at school pick up and they agreed that Jenny is a wise woman! And because I really do know the most amazing women, I wasn’t surprised when another mum, Tracey Pattison, a very respected cookbook author, offered her muesli slice recipe which we have been making a lot using the Unexpected Guest Gluten Freestyle Muesli, which is a staple in our house. I have attached Tracey’s recipe so you can share the goodness. We eat it for breakfast as we can’t send nuts to school but I plan to make a nut-free version for the lunch box any day now – I just really love the Unexpected Guest range so it’s what I always have in the house.
Healthy Breakfast for Busy Lives - Jenny Kahn
Getting organised for the school day is hard for most people (kids, teachers, mums and dads) which means fuelling your body with the best foods to get you alert for the day may be the last thing on your list.
Most people will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Back when my daughter was in school she didn’t like to eat early so breakfast was not a factor for her. Back then I was determined she should have something healthy in her tummy before school.
Our schedule was hectic and I had to drop her at Before School Care by 7.30am otherwise I would miss my train to work. Every morning I would give her a banana or carrot and we would walk into the Before School Care Centre with her happily chewing on either one and me feeling relaxed in my mind that at least her lunch box was full of goodness plus a banana or carrot for brekky, everyone happy!
My daughter is 25 now and we are both busier than ever. The variety of breakfast goodies has changed too and we have so many different options available like cereals, smoothies, protein shakes, eggs on toast (if time permits). The one thing you do not want to indulge is foods covered with refined sugars that will affect your focus and therefore your work performance. Our Freestyle Granuesli at The Unexpected Guest is 99.9% Australian Certified Organic and includes the most beautiful Australian Bush Honey from Queensland which is organic. Honey is our second ingredient and was a very popular food source and sweetener in Aboriginal/ First Nations communities before colonisation as well as nuts and seeds. The Aboriginal/ First Nations diet was simple but rich in every food group (meat, fish, fruits, vegetable and nuts).
In Aboriginal life we only take what we need to ensure vital balance in ourselves and the environment, therefore we believe the serving portions in our mueslis ensure you maintain balance in your food intake. Even if you are time poor in the morning, pour a portion into a reusable snap lock bag or go plastic free with a paper bag and eat it like a trail mix: no need for milk.
Another option is our Organic Oats & Nuts Bar which is a perfect grab-and-go food that has no refined sugars and includes the Australian Bush Honey.
Enjoy the school and work morning routine without the stress of missing breakfast!
You can follow Jenny and the Unexpected Guest at:
You can follow Tracy Pattison at:
Written by Tricia Wallace - Wingaru Butabuta Cultural Awareness Training Facilitator
In 2014 I was working for the Australian Government in an Aboriginal Liaison type position and I was also the President of my local AECG. The NAIDOC theme that year was about those who served. I received a study kit from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that had been released for schools about Aboriginal soldiers. I didn’t know much about the history of Aboriginal People and the armed forces. It was something that I was never taught at school and something that was not talked about in my family. I wasn’t actually sure that any of my relatives had served. My curiosity peaked, I did some further research.
I found a site with some letters sent to the authorities from Aboriginal families asking for information on the death of their loved ones and if there were any “keepsakes” in the government possession that could be returned to them. The Aboriginal writers were so anxious about their requests, their writing often came off as cold and self-serving instead of driven by grief. I wondered how many of the letter writers received a response that provided some comfort and how many were dismissed, their grief not recognised by the person responsible for managing such correspondence.
Imagine my surprise to find one such letter written by my own great-grandmother about a nephew to whom she was close and had listed her as his next-of-kin. Like many Aboriginal People, I was left to stumble on my own family history because our mob had lost so much that this was often the only way to find out about those before us. Many of our people are still searching for bits of information in an attempt to find out where they fit and who their ancestors were. For many of these people we know that culture is forever lost for them. Past policies ensured that.
In my research I read about pride – the pride that people feel for their relatives that served, many making the ultimate sacrifice. Relatives of soldiers proudly presenting their loved ones’ stories and marching in honor of them. Sadly, most of these stories were about non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people who served were not treated the same as the white soldiers. Like the rest of their lives, their military service often went under appreciated. Many struggled to be enlisted at all and those that were successful returned from war to once again be treated like second class citizens, a stark contrast from the experience of their non-Aboriginal comrades.
I was horrified to discover that 50 Aboriginal black trackers, men who were unable to enlist as soldiers because they were Aboriginal yet still wanted to fight for our country, were denied re-entry into Australia under the “White Australia Policy”, so were left behind in Africa after the Boer War. They served their country alongside white Australians only to be discarded because of their Aboriginality. In cultural awareness sessions I am frequently asked ‘why weren’t we told?’ and this was one of those moments for me. Why did I not know this? Why doesn’t the world know this? But in reality I knew why – Australian history is a carefully curated story that has for too long hidden the treatment of our First Nations People.
For Aboriginal soldiers who did return to Australia, they had no choice but to resume life on missions or reserves. They were not given land grants as non-Aboriginal soldiers often were. They were not eligible to enter pubs or even the Returned and Services League Clubs and were ineligible for the Veterans’ Affairs pension. Aboriginal servicemen and women received no recognition and many returned to find children removed, and were told their pay had been withheld from their families.
For those who did not make it home, there were no plaques placed on their graves and their families were not allowed to participate in ANZAC Day marches or other events that families of non-Aboriginal soldiers got to take comfort in.
Aboriginal returned veterans held their own ANZAC service behind the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Their shrine was a few hundred metres into bushland at a private ANZAC memorial plaque for Aboriginal Diggers.
In 2017, Aboriginal Servicemen and women led the ANZAC march for the first time. I was thrilled to see one of my favourite Elders finally strutting in the lead.
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.