‘In 2017, the ANZAC Day national march was led by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans representing the service of over 1000 Indigenous soldiers in WW1, and closer to 8,000 in WW2.
‘Theirs was a tale of false promise. Experiencing equality in pay and conditions for the first time in their lives and general respect when in uniform, many Indigenous soldiers returned home from both world wars back into the unequal conditions they’d left. Their service often went unrecognized, their access to veteran support limited compared to non-Indigenous comrades.
‘Now in 2020, the respect and recognition that was finally being delivered is being rolled back by the Returned Service League of Western Australia (RSLWA), an organization that barred Indigenous soldiers and their families from joining after both wars. The RSLWA’s logic is again deeply flawed.
‘The RSLWA’s decision to prevent “Aboriginal displays”, flags, from ANZAC Day celebrations is a deep insult to those Indigenous soldiers who served Australia, and who continue to serve today.
‘Perhaps, as is only too common, they mistake Aboriginal pride for a lack of patriotism; perhaps they should ask themselves why all those Indigenous soldiers signed up in the first place?’
David Stirrup is Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Kent’s School of English, specializing in post-Imperial Britain’s responsibilities to peoples it both displaced and made treaties with during the colonial era.
In 2019 he launched a new Centre for Indigenous and Settler Colonial Studies at the University of Kent, drawing on a broad network of institutions in the UK, US, and Canada. This is the first Centre of its kind in the UK.
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