Special section: Aboriginal war service

Aboriginal History

Author/s (editor/s):

Noah Riseman
John Maynard
Philippa Scarlett
Andrea Gerrard
Jessica Horton
Kristyn Harman
Allison Cadzow

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ANU Press

Volume 39 of Aboriginal History is timely for the centenary of Gallipoli this year. The 56 Indigenous men who fought in this disastrous battle are duly noted in its special section on Aboriginal war service, edited by Allison Cadzow, Kristyn Harman and Noah Riseman. As Riseman points out in his preface, Aboriginal History can be credited as playing a leading role in the inception of growing interest in Indigenous combatants by devoting an earlier special issue to them in 1992, still nascent days for the field.

Growing public recognition of Aboriginal wartime service, however, hazards the affixed narratives and mythologies that often beset national remembrance of war. The Anzac myth has been riven with jingoism, particularly under the culture wars waged by recent conservative governments. Belated public interest in Indigenous service is thus susceptible to the suppression of racial discrimination and the diversity of Indigenous soldiers, and of forgetting that Indigenous servicemen fought for a ‘white Australia’. Men circumvented regulations prohibiting the enlistment of persons ‘not substantially of European origin or descent’; approximately 6,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served in both conflicts. The contributions to this edition’s special section reappraise narratives and foster new avenues of inquiry, particularly on the impact of war service on families and communities, and in exploring how the entrance of Aboriginal men into Australian military service disrupted accustomed notions of defence of country.

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