Reflecting on Indigenous military service this NAIDOC week

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DURING NAIDOC Week, held from 8–15 November, we should all pause and remember the legacy and valuable contribution of Australia's First Nations' service men and women.

NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, cultures, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and is observed each year by Australians from all walks of life.

Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said this year's theme 'Always Was, Always Will Be' was a recognition that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for thousands of years.

"The contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to our modern military history dates back to the Boer War, over 120 years ago," Mr Chester said.

"Many Indigenous defence personnel have served with distinction, such as Torres Strait Islander, Kapiu Masi Gagai, who was renowned as a skilled boatman and fearless soldier.

"In late 1943 he was seconded to the 11th Infantry Brigade and took part in a hazardous expedition led by Donald Finlay Fergusson Thomson in Netherlands New Guinea, where he was twice placed in charge of an outpost at Caledon Bay and promoted to acting sergeant.

"Sergeant Gagai became an expert Vickers gunner and was praised by Thomson for his sense of responsibility, devotion to duty, leadership, loyalty, selflessness and setting an example to others."

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a proud history of participation in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that continues today. This year we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, in which it is estimated as many as 6,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served. In 2019-20 almost 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have participated in Indigenous ADF pre-recruit and development programs.

"During NAIDOC Week we recognise those Indigenous Australians who have donned the uniform and celebrate their achievements, culture, and history," Mr Chester said.

"This NAIDOC week I encourage all Australians to acknowledge, remember and thank our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defence personnel and veterans for their service."

The Australian War Memorial will hold a Last Post Ceremony at 4:55pm AEDT, 10 November 2020, to commemorate Private Christopher Wilson Carter as part of NAIDOC Week. Bookings are required and can be made on the Australian War Memorial website.

 
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