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Chief Investigator Dr Noah Riseman and Dr Catherine Bishop, both of Australian Catholic University, recently convened the international conference ‘Brothers and Sisters in Arms: Historicising Indigenous Military Service’. The conference drew over 30 speakers and another 30 delegates from across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and even Qatar.
The conference began with a warm Welcome to Country delivered by Wurundjeri and Yorta Yorta Elder Aunty Dot Peters from Healesville, Victoria. Aunty Dot spoke about her work initiating Reconciliation services commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander military service at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance and how her initiative has since been taken up by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The first conference keynote, Dr Teresia Teaiwa (Victoria University of Wellington) delivered a fantastic presentation focusing on militarism in the South Pacific among postcolonial Pacific Island nations. She also spoke about the role of Fiji women in the armed forces and the ways those women have remembered their experiences in the army, challenging gender norms. The second keynote on Friday morning was Professor Emeritus Tom Holm (University of Arizona). Holm’s excellent talk was about his own experiences as a Vietnam War veteran, the lessons he and other veterans learned about the importance of traditional healing to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder. He also discussed some of the continuing problems confronting Native American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and how many of the lessons learned by his generation are being forgotten.
The two days were filled with fantastic papers including: constructs of ‘seafaring races’ across the British Empire, Aboriginal remembrance practices on the Kokoda Trail, the role of Native American and Aboriginal Australian veterans of the First World War fighting for human rights, Māori participation in the privatised military industry, the Shadow Wolves patrolling the US-Mexico border in search of narcotics trafficking and even cultural centres’ depictions of Six Nations participation in the First World War.
A small selection of these fantastic papers will be appearing in a special edition of the Native American and Indigenous Studies journal Wicazo sa review in 2016 or 2017.