In recognition of NAIDOC Week we have added information about indigenous servicemen from WWI to our WWI Blog. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons.
It is estimated that up to 800 indigenous servicemen served in the First World War. The exact number will never be known since ethnicity was not recorded on enlistment papers.
When war broke out in 1914, many indigenous Australians who attempted to enlist were rejected on the grounds of race, their attestation papers marked ‘Unsuitable physique – Aboriginal’ or ‘Unsuitable physique – Colour’. This was in accordance with the Commonwealth Defence Act 1909 which prevented those who were not of ‘substantially European descent’ from enlisting in the armed forces.
Many indigenous men enlisted under false names and/or places of birth in an attempt to evade these conditions. Others claimed to be African American, Maori or only distantly related to Aboriginal people. Read the rest of this entry »