Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, has welcomed a decision by the Australian War Memorial to rename its Western Gallery and Courtyard in honour of Captain Reginald ‘Reg’ Saunders MBE – the first Aboriginal serviceman to be promoted to a commissioned rank.
The Reg Saunders Gallery and Courtyard was officially named at a ceremony to coincide with Remembrance Day at the Australian War Memorial today.
“Reg, a member of the Gunditjmara people, was born near the Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve in Victoria. He followed his father, Chris, and uncle, William, into the military in 1940 when he enlisted in the second Australian Imperial Force,” Minister Scullion said.
“His strong leadership skills were obvious early on and he quickly progressed through the ranks to lance corporal and then sergeant.
“Reg fought first in Libya in 1940 and then in Greece in 1941 and was nominated for officer training by his commanding officer in 1944.
“He attended officer training school in Seymour, graduating as a lieutenant in December 1944 – the first Aboriginal Australian to attain this level of command in the Australian Army.
“He went on to serve in the Korean War, where he was promoted to captain, and resigned from the Army in 1954. Reg was appointed a Member of the British Empire in 1971 for his community service and died in 1990 aged 69.
“It’s fitting such a well respected soldier and leader is honoured by the Australian War Memorial in this way. Reg showed ability, courage and sacrifice during his career that is typical of so many Australian service people, but unique for its contribution to our military and Indigenous history.”
Thousands of Indigenous Australians served in Australia’s armed forces during World War Two and the Korean War. Last year’s national NAIDOC Week theme was Serving Country: Centenary and Beyond in honour of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of country.
Note to editors: Images of Captain Reg Saunders can be found at the AWM’s online media centrehttps://secure.awm.gov.au/media/
Download media release:
2015-11-11 MR – SCULLION – Reg Saunders.pdf