Residents of Redfern have called for a memorial to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women, following a small Anzac Day ceremony in the inner Sydney suburb.
About 200 people attended a wreath laying ceremony in Redfern Park to commemorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have served in the armed forces, as well as those who stayed home to keep communities together.
“They cared for and comforted their men when they returned from war and helped them adjust back to `normal’ family and community life,” community spokesman Ray Minniecon said in a statement on Monday.
Mr Minniecon said Aboriginal servicemen and women were usually treated as equals within the armed services, but it was a different story when they returned home.
“Some of our diggers returned to find that while they had been away fighting for their country their wives had been denied access to their pay, or even worse, that their children had been taken and placed in institutions.”
The Redfern Aboriginal ANZAC Day organising committee said they had been lobbying the City of Sydney council and the NSW government for five years to build a memorial to honour indigenous veterans.
“Despite initial interest, it appears this official recognition is still a long way from being reality,” Mr Minniecon said.
The Anzac Day ceremony started with the laying of a wreath at the Redfern Park War Memorial at 1230 (AEST), followed by a march to the Redfern Community centre for a commemorative service.
According to the Australian War Memorial website, over 400 indigenous Australians fought in the First World War.
“Aborigines in the First World War served on equal terms,” the website says.
“But after the war, in areas such as education, employment, and civil liberties, Aboriginal ex-servicemen and women found that discrimination remained or, indeed, had worsened during the war period.”