From: Defence Media Centre
Date: Wed 4/07/2012 5:53 PM

Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who championed change

Defence has acknowledged the role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have played in defending Australia at a memorial service held at the Australian War Memorial today.

The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley addressed the ceremony and laid a wreath in honour of Indigenous servicemen and women, past and present.

The ceremony was part of NAIDOC week 2012 which is celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have championed change. One of the themes for NAIDOC 2012 is 'They dared to Challenge'.

"It is a powerful theme and what comes to my mind is a spirit of courage and determination. Both are vitally important qualities shared by all Service men and women," General Hurley said.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who entered into service in World War II are a great example of people who ‘dared to challenge’ in the interest of Australia.

More than 3000 Indigenous Australians enlisted during World War II. A further 150-200 served as de facto Servicemen and patrolled and performed other military duties along the north Australian coast while an additional 3000 Indigenous Australians supported the World War II defence effort as civilian labourers.

"History shows that our Indigenous Service men and women dared to challenge the system by fighting for their country in a time of great need and were among the early pioneers of a reconciliation process that continues today," General Hurley said.

"There is a long list of exemplary Service men and women who also happen to be Indigenous. We thank them for their service and welcome the next generation of Indigenous Australians who will carry on their tradition of service," General Hurley said.

Defence provides education, training and dedicated programs like the Defence Indigenous Development Program and Indigenous pre-recruitment course to assist.

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