News

Discrimination faced by our indigenous soldiers
Discrimination faced by our indigenous soldiers

In the lead up to Anzac Day 7News has investigated, as part of a series of stories, the discrimination faced by our Indigenous soldiers, and revealed the full extent of the injustice they faced.

The earliest Aboriginal soliders might not have been fighting for Queen, but they were fighting for country; their country.

White settlement came with enemies, all over the world.

For the first time in thousands of years, Indigenous Australians were catapulted from tribal battles into global conflict.

At least 100 Indigenous soldiers were killed in the First World War.

“These are the only ones we know about, there's got to be many, many more - so they did pay the supreme sacrifice," the Australian War Memorial's Gary Oakley said.

Thirty died at Gallipoli.

"They were killed on the Landing, and killed throughout the campaign, and many of those who went on to serve at Gallipoli went on to France and Belgium and Egypt, and got killed there as well," Mr Oakley said.

Percy Pepper was one of 1000 Aboriginal soldiers to fight in World War One.

"He enlisted while he was in Warrnambool to go to war and I think the reason was because he really thought Australia was worth fighting for," granddaughter Glenys Watts said.

Gary Oakley from the War Memorial said that Indigenous Australians wanted people to know that they did serve this nation, even when the nation didn't see them as citizens.

While War Memorial Director and former defence minister Brendan Nelson said that many Indigenous soldiers denied their Aboriginality in order to be able to sign up to the Forces.

But Percy Pepper's ordeal after the war is just one chapter in a long, disturbing and little-known story about a national disgrace.

This year's Anzac Day will be a chance for all Australians to reflect on the shame of how Indigenous diggers were treated after risking their lives to defend the country that had been taken from them.

After returning from World War One they were banned from having a beer with the mates they fought alongside, excluded from soldier housing settlement plans and refused treatment for physical injuries and deep psychological scarring.

All of this before their children were stolen.

He "enlisted while he was in Warrnambool to go to war, because he really thought Australia was worth fighting for," his granddaughter Glenys Watts said. Photo: Supplied

In immaculate handwriting Percy Pepper wrote to the Victorian Premier, asking to have his family moved from the swamp he was forced to buy after returning from service.

"I would like to have a smaller place in another locality, this land was my great-grandfathers and the white people took it," Pepper wrote.

His granddaughter, Glenys Watts, said that reading the letter made her feel like someone was reached in tugging at her heartstrings.

Singer-songwriter Dave Arden has combined with the legendary Paul Kelly to pay tribute to the heroes no longer unsung.

He was inspired by stories of his heritage.

"My father's sister started talking about their uncles, and their brothers, that went to war in the First and Second World War," Mr Arden said.

But just as it was for the vote, citizenship and an apology - the recognition of Indigenous Australians in wars fought for all our freedom has been way, way overdue.

If you'd like to join the conversation about this story visit our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Latest

Compare & Save

Partners