Message Stick - Lest We Forget
Each year, there is an outpouring of national pride on April 25 - ANZAC Day. The iconic 'digger' - a battler against the odds committed to mateship, a fair go, and an egalitarian ideal - is held up as a timeless embodiment of Australia's fundamental national values. But while the blood that was shed on the distant battlefields was only one shade - red - there is a colour blindness that has pervaded Australia's recognition and treatment of Indigenous servicemen and women and their families. The contribution of Indigenous servicemen and women is now well documented. Many defied a colour bar restricting their enlistment to earn highly distinguished honours in the armed forces, and Indigenous Australians have served in every conflict since the turn of the nineteenth century. While on the war front and faced with a common enemy, Australian troops fought as one. It was on the home front that a separation divided white and black comrades in arms. In WWII, different work standards and pay rates were applied. The 1967 Referendum and full citizenship rights were still a long way off at the end of WWII. Indigenous servicemen and women raised their families without the benefit of the Soldier Resettlement Scheme or other government assistance. Inroads have been made over the passing decades to redress imbalances, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Bob Noble, newly appointed to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, is now spearheading initiatives that will see Indigenous veterans take their rightful place of pride, and is developing a list of the names of all Indigenous servicemen and women who have fought in defence of Australia.
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