Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Military Service since 1945
By Noah Riseman and Richard Trembath
Published by University of Qld Press
RRP $34.95 in paperback
In the preface, the authors, both established historians, set out their expectations of this work – to facilitate further conversations about Indigenous contributions to Australia’s defence, past and present. They are not claiming the work as a complete history of post World War II military service by Australia’s first people.
Few Australians realise the extent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the military. Many enlisted before they had the right to vote, to drink alcohol or even to receive equal wages, and certainly well before constitutional recognition of Indigenous people as citizens.
This book explores how military service impacted the lives of Indigenous recruits. It also reveals how Indigenous involvement in Australia’s defence contributed to the advancement of their rights. There is an interesting chapter on the RSL’s approach to Indigenous veterans who did not, at the time, have the same rights as their white counterparts.
The book examines what motivated Indigenous people to sign up, their experiences of racism, the challenges in returning to civilian life and the role of the Australian Defence Force in promoting Reconciliation. Defending Country is an important addition to Australia’s military history studies and offers a fascinating insight into little understood Indigenous military experience.