Hamilton Gallery

Troops of the 2/7th Infantry Batallion on leave from New Guinea waiting for the south-bound train to start.
Reg Saunders is standing 4th from left. 12 October, 1943, photographer James Tait, AWM 057894


6 March – 28 April 2013

Indigenous servicemen and servicewomen enlisted to serve Australia as not only a duty to serve but also as part of the cultural responsibility of protecting country. They enlisted for the same reasons as their non-Indigenous fellow servicemen and servicewomen, but for many men, it was and continues to be an honourable way to re-enact traditional roles of leadership, protection and service to community.

Indigenous servicemen and servicewomen were and continue to be involved in almost every war and peacekeeping effort of Australia. At the time of the First World War, few Aboriginal people could vote, were not counted in the Federal census and most lived in poverty. Wartime service in the armed forces provided many Indigenous Australians with a level of racial equality they had not previously known.

Whilst many found equality in service, once back home, they experienced racism and inequality by not receiving the same entitlements as other diggers.

Despite this, many became outstanding leaders like Reg Saunders and the legacy of the Lovett Family is renowned throughout the British Commonwealth, with 21 serving family members.