Aboriginal people who died in the so-called ‘frontier wars’ of colonisation should be formally recognised in Anzac Day proceedings, according to the organisers of an annual march to honour them.
Activist Michael Anderson, the last surviving founder of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and leader of the Euahlayi Nation, has asked the Returned Servicemen’s League and the Australian War Memorial to make space for the fallen warriors this Anzac Day.
The response so far – from the Australian War Memorial – is that a wreath may be laid but that it would not be part of formal proceedings, which must be approved by the Memorial’s council.
Mr Anderson is an organiser of the annual Lest We Forget March for Remembrance, which is held every Anzac Day in Canberra.
In a letter to the RSL and the Australian War Memorial, Mr Anderson asked that a laying of a wreaths for the fallen Aboriginal people be formally included in the Anzac Day program at the Australian War Memorial.
“If we can achieve this, I believe that Australia as a nation will grow in stature thanks to the efforts of the RSL and it will be seen as one of the greatest modern-day efforts to heal a hurt country,” the letter reads.
The Remembrance March was started on Anzac Day in 2011. Organisers say it is not a protest or rally but a sombre memorial.
Acknowledge the violence of settlement: academic
Internationally recognised military historian and author Professor Joan Beaumont, of the Australian National University, told NIT this week more recognition needed to be given to the violence that happened within Australia.
Prof Beaumont is the editor of a new book Serving Our Country about Aboriginal servicemen and women and their roles defending Australia.
She said Anzac Day had become a day when the service of any person who served in any conflict was remembered and recognised.
“It’s the whole of the 20th century and right up to Afghanistan,” Prof Beaumont said.
“There is a debate going on about whether Anzac Day should also recognise conflict between white and Indigenous Australians at the time of white settlement – that debate is yet to be resolved.
“I think we should be giving much more recognition to the violence that occurred as a result of the white settlement of Australia.
“I think it’s time to acknowledge that there was catastrophic impact of white settlement on Indigenous communities.”
Asked if it had been a civil war, she replied: “This is where some of the debate gets a bit tangled.
“What do you call it? I think civil war is not quite the right term but certainly there was violence and considerable loss of life on the frontier.”
Response from the Memorial
The RSL this week said wreath-laying on Anzac Day was the responsibility of the Australian War Memorial.
Memorial director Brendan Nelson responded to Mr Anderson that the group was welcome to lay a wreath but it would not be part of formal proceedings.
He said wreaths laid during the national ceremony were determined by the Memorial’s council and based on a Commonwealth Order of Precedence.
“In 2015 the council approved the inclusion of the National President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association to lay a wreath during the Anzac Day National Ceremony in recognition of the loss and contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women,” Mr Nelson said.
“All attendees to the ceremony are welcome to place wreaths or floral tributes at the Stone of Remembrance at the conclusion of the National Ceremony.
“As in previous years your group would be welcome to do so, however I can advise that this will not be formally announced.”
INDIGENOUS-FOCUSED ANZAC DAY PROCEEDINGS
CANBERRA: 2018 Lest We Forget March for Remembrance, 9.30am start from the lower end of Anzac Parade, Canberra.
SYDNEY: Coloured Diggers March, 10am-3pm, beginning at Redfern Community Centre.
PERTH: Aboriginal and Maori dancers are set to perform together at 7am after the Anzac Day dawn service at Kings Park.