Today, Anzac Day, is a time to pause and honour the Australians, including many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have served in Australia’s armed forces.
In a fitting tribute to the contribution made by our First Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association has today, for the first time, led the march at the Anzac Day National Ceremony in Canberra.
Relatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans also proudly marched with the Association, wearing the medals of their loved ones.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served in every conflict since Federation, an extraordinary record that has not always been recognised.
During World War II, nearly every eligible Torres Strait Islander enlisted in the Australian Army even though they initially received just one third of the pay of white soldiers of equal rank. It was not until 1986 that they received their full back pay for their war service.
Established in 1942, the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion remains the only Indigenous battalion ever formed by the army.
First Australians have also made a significant contribution to the wartime effort on the home front, as well as modern-day peacekeeping operations.
Two months ago, I attended a national commemoration to acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin. Our First Australians were among those killed during the bombings that occurred across the Top End during the Second World War, and the stories of courage and sacrifice like that of the Yunupingu brothers during the bombing of the HMAS Patricia Cam must be remembered and acknowledged.
Today, I attended the dawn service in Darwin and was again moved by the sacrifice made by so many Australians – including our First Australians.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum which gave the Australian Government the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and for them to be counted on the census for the first time, I encourage all Australians to remember the contribution of First Australians this Anzac Day.