ANZAC Day – for those who served in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations

MEDIA RELEASE 23 April 2012

Euahlayi leader and Interim Chair of the Aboriginal National Unity Government, Michael Anderson answers the recent criticisms of the proposed respectful march of recognition of Aboriginal people who died in defence of their lands during the colonial invasion and the deaths suffered at the hands of people with genocidal intent.

By Michael Anderson, writing from Dubbo, NSW

Aboriginal people who died in defence of their lands during the colonial invasion and the deaths suffered at the hands of people with genocidal intent are remembered by all Aboriginal people, particularly in areas where bodies have been left on open ground all those years ago and are now commemorated by sun-bleached bones and unmarked graves, which represent the human toll by an inhumane society.

The unjustified criticisms by politicians and the Returned Services League (RSL) clearly shows the denial of Australian authorities of the reality of injustice perpetrated against Aboriginal people.

After all, the Returned Services League website acknowledges that:

“ANZAC day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day we remember all Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.”

We are gathering at the lower end of ANZAC Parade, Canberra (near East Block) at 10am to respectfully join in behind the 11am march on Anzac Day 25 April 2012. All supporters welcome.

In the wars that Anzac Day currently remembers, in excess of 7,000 Aboriginal people fought offshore alongside their non-indigenous comrades, but the relationship turned sour immediately upon their return to Australian shores. The souring of these peoples’ efforts is traced directly to the barbaric and inhumane racist laws that made Aboriginal people prisoners on their own land and wards of the state. This in turn denied any the sense of justice, when we listen to Aboriginal families describe the injustices perpetrated against their grandfathers and great grandfathers, who fought in the First and Second World Wars.

The types of memories that I have been hearing the last two weeks from Aboriginal people are epitomised in the story of an old Aboriginal man called Bill Cochran of Goodooga in northwest NSW, who went to the First World War with a work mate called Digger Scott. On their return Digger Scott was given a soldier settlement grant at Goodooga, while Digger Bill Cochran returned as a ward of the state to a tin hut with a dirt floor and no civil or citizen rights.

Then there is a Murruwarri man from Weilmoringle in northwest NSW, Harold West, who with his Euahlayi mate, George Leonard, fought in PNG with their white mates and when trying to cross the Owen Stanley Ranges. George Leonard was fatally wounded and the journalist travelling with this battalion recorded that Harold West, in his grief, returned to his Aboriginal custom and disappeared naked with a belt of hand grenades and a bayonet to go after those who killed his mate. Within a couple of nights the Japanese who were holding down the top of the Owen Stanley Ranges disappeared from sight after explosions were witnessed. When the non-Aboriginal troopers arrived at the top of the Owen Stanley Ranges they soon learned of the effects that one Aboriginal man can have when resorting to guerrilla tactics. Harold West was recommended for a Victoria Cross for his efforts, but, no doubt because he was an Aboriginal and a ward of the State, these recommendations were rejected; the State’s racist laws would have prejudiced his consideration for a VC.

It is now time for the RSL and the government to review Aboriginal participation in the offshore wars in defence of their country and do as the USA has done for the African American airmen and justly compensate them after 70 years.

In conclusion, we are calling upon the RSL and the government to locate all the families of Aboriginal service men and women and put head stones on the grave sites of these brave people, just as they do with non-Aboriginal people.

We further call upon the state and federal governments to work with Aboriginal people to establish historical memorial sites, with the advice of Aboriginal people, to identify the massacre sites during the colonial invasion. We need these areas to be excised as places of remembrance and protected by law.

If Germany can deal with their horror history and establish memorial sites, so too can Australia. Australia has to deal with its true history, as it is only through this effort that this nation can begin to heal.

Contact: Michael Anderson 0427 292 492

Earlier story: Call to Aborigines to march on Anzac Day to commemorate the frontier wars

More Aboriginal activism at National Unity Government and Treaty Republic.

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Not all are wilfully oblivious

Re. the last paragraph about coming to terms with one's people's misdeeds....There is a new show on ABC on Sunday nights "Two on the Great Divide" with Tim Flanagan and John Doyle and Tim and John get a last chance to see the endangered Corroboree Frog and the Mountain Pygmy Possum. John recreates the Henry Parkes speech that kicked off Federation, and they visit the site of one of the most harrowing massacres in Australia. The two men commented on the site that there were no plaques to indicate what had happened there, no memorial for the sixty people slaughtered in cold blood. They agreed that Australians would always feel uneasy until they faced up to their history and dealt with it honestly. Not all are wilfully oblivious.....


New Zealand Herald

Gillard's $100m plan for Gallipoli

Aborigine activists are also intent on using today's national service in Canberra , with a group planning to join the tail of the parade to remember Aborigines "who died in defence of their lands during the colonial invasion".

Spokesman Michael Anderson, one of the founders of Canberra's iconic tent embassy, dismissed criticism of the march as unjustified.

"This clearly shows the denial of Australian authorities of the reality of injustice perpetrated against Aboriginal people. After all, RSL website acknowledges that Anzac Day 'goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915 (to) remember all Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations'."

50 Aboriginal trackers left behind after the Boer War

Between 1899 and 1902, fifty Aboriginal black trackers were summonsed by the British forces in South Africa to join the Boer war effort.

Griffith University's Indigenous research fellow, Dr Dale Kerwin said that the black trackers came from all over the country but very little else is known about them. He claims they were left behind at the end of the war in 1902 because they were denied re-entry into Australia under the Immigration Protection Act, known as the White Australian Policy.

ABC report:

Michael Anderson: "Three jeerers, but mostly applause"

40000 attend Canberra Anzac Day services
Aboriginal Tent Embassy co-founder Michael Anderson, along with about 30 others, gathered at the lower end of Anzac Parade and followed behind the parade. However, they were stopped by police at the entrance to a cordoned-off area near the Stone of Remembrance. "We had about three jeerers, but other than that, we got applause," Mr Anderson told AAP.

''We will not go in until we are invited"

Record turn-out braves big chill to pay their respects
The Canberra Times

About 20 Aboriginal activists also marched at the end of yesterday's parade, carrying banners in recognition of ''the colonial wars'' and Aboriginal blood that had been shed on Australian soil.

The group marched quietly to the top of Anzac Parade and did not enter the War Memorial.

''Our respectful position is we will not go in until we are invited,'' tent embassy founder Michael Anderson said.

New Zealand Herald

Aboriginal activists warmly received in Anzac Day march

By Greg Ansley 5:30 AM Thursday Apr 26, 2012

Activists urging recognition of colonial Australia's frontier wars and the treatment received by Aboriginal servicemen after their return from the two world wars were applauded as they marched in Canberra yesterday.

The small group of about 20, carrying Aboriginal flags and banners and accompanied by a didgeridoo, joined the tail of the national Anzac Day parade, behind columns of veterans that included a detachment of New Zealanders.

Led by Michael Anderson, one of the founders of the capital's tent embassy, the activists were separated from the main body but were met with support as they moved up Anzac Parade to the Australian War Memorial.

Veterans' groups had earlier attacked the march as "inappropriate", and there had been some concern after the Australia Day protest, during which Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott were rushed from a restaurant by bodyguards.

A few bystanders heckled the marchers - one said they should "join up or go home" - but were outnumbered by others who applauded along the length of the parade.

Anderson said people had seen the "lest we forget the frontier wars" banners and others naming colonial battles and massacres, and knew that the march was not a protest.

"The public are a little more in the know than politicians and bureaucrats," he said.

Anderson said indigenous groups were asking governments to identify and set aside sites of colonial conflicts as memorials, but progress was slow. Separate indigenous services were held in Canberra and the Sydney suburbs of Redfern and Blacktown.

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