The hardships of more than 80 Western Australian Aboriginal men who enlisted and served in World War I, despite legislative attempts to exclude them, have been illustrated in a new publication.
No Less Worthy was launched at a commemorative ceremony last week and acknowledges the contribution of WA Aboriginal servicemen to the war effort.
Of the 133 Aboriginal men who volunteered to serve in the war, 23 were rejected for not being of substantially European descent or origin, or for medical reasons, including citing Aboriginality as a disability.
The publication delves into the lives of the volunteers prior to enlisting, and the further plight and suffering they experienced on returning home with many of the legislative exclusions and discriminatory practices still in place.
“No Less Worthy recognises those Aboriginal men who served, and those who were unable to serve,” WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said.
“Those who were excluded from serving must have been deeply hurt, adding to the many injustices they experienced in their daily lives. For those who did serve, the one thing that united them was the shared suffering of war.”
“The equality they experienced while fighting shoulder to shoulder with their non-Aboriginal mates was not always given to them on their return home.
“As a proud Aboriginal Western Australian it is an honour to pay tribute to all those who served, and in particular, to each of the Aboriginal men in this book.”
No Less Worthy is available to be downloaded at http://www.dlgsc.wa.gov.au/NoLessWorthy
By Wendy Caccetta