On this Remembrance Day, I want to pay particular tribute to Indigenous servicemen and women.
Their spirit is the same Anzac spirit we honour: a spirit of courage, determination and loyalty to their country and people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have fought with British and Australian forces throughout the past 110 years—from the Boer War onwards— and continue to serve today.
During the First World War in 1914 around 1000 Indigenous people fought for their country. Some were at Gallipoli.
During the Second World War, many left family and community to serve overseas, some travelling vast distances for the chance to enlist.
We should remember, too, those who served at home. A 50-strong reconnaissance force of Yolngu men patrolled the northern coastline using their intimate knowledge of country to protect against invasion.
These men were the first line of defence against an invasion that, at the time, seemed inevitable. It’s estimated the Army employed 20 per cent of the Northern Territory’s Indigenous population in World War II.
They served their country, despite not having the right to vote.
We are only just beginning to recognise the sheer numbers of Indigenous people who served and hear their stories of exemplary service.
We are also saddened by the stories of the treatment received by those who returned.
When among their fellow soldiers, these Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people felt equal and accepted. They experienced the mateship and camaraderie on the battlefield.
Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a vital and valued part of our modern Defence forces, patrolling on our northern borders and serving overseas.
Let’s take a moment this Remembrance Day to commemorate our Indigenous servicemen and women, and acknowledge their contribution and commitment to our country’s freedom.