Untold stories of Indigenous military service uncovered

State Library of Queensland explores the untold story of Indigenous service in the First World War with an online screening of the Serving Country Forum.

Tune in on 26 September to watch a full day of thought-provoking conversations unfold as the Indigenous experience of WWI, both on the homefront and the battlefront, is discussed. Organise a viewing at your workplace, community organisation or at home to share the interesting discoveries together.

State Librarian Janette Wright said screening the Serving Country Forum online via State Library’s website provides a rare opportunity for anyone to experience the stories uncovered by the Black Diggers project — a joint Queensland Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company production.

“When war was declared in 1914 many Indigenous men were the first to try to enlist, although it wasn’t until April 1917 that Indigenous enlistment was permitted,” Ms Wright said.

“As we uncover this hidden history, it’s clear that these men fought valiantly for their country. As they stood by their fellow Australians they hoped to bring equality to their communities. Until very recently, these stories and this important history were virtually unknown.”

Facilitated by Joshua Creamer, Native Title Barrister and Chairman of Titans 4 Tomorrow, the forum features a keynote address by Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA, Historian and Author. A range of guest speakers will discuss topics such as 100 years of Indigenous service, researching Indigenous service history and creative responses to commemorating the fallen.

Speakers and researchers from the Black Diggers production will present along with speakers from the Australian War Memorial, Cherbourg Historical Precinct and the Yugambeh Museum.

Minister Assisting the Premier on the Anzac Centenary, Glen Elmes, said the forum’s theme of Serving Country reflects this year’s NAIDOC Week theme which recognised the century of military service by Indigenous Australians.

Mr Elmes said that Indigenous Australians have served the country in conflicts going back to the Boer War, and many have died protecting Australian and Commonwealth interests.

“It’s amazing these young Australians even bothered to join up because they were not classed as citizens, had no right to vote, could not buy property or enter a public bar,” Mr Elmes said.

“Many of them were treated as equals for the first time in their lives as soldiers, but upon returning to civilian life they experienced the same discrimination and prejudice as before going into uniform. A century later, we continue to honour their memory and the memory of every Queenslander who gave their all during those four dark years and the re-building which followed.”

Arts Minister Ian Walker said State Library had led Queensland in helping us to commemorate our Anzac heritage.

“The Queensland Government supports State Library to deliver services for all Queenslanders, wherever they live,” Mr Walker said.

“Their special role in helping us to know authentic Anzac experiences not only informs this generation, but
keeps the Anzac story alive for future generations.”

The Serving Country Forum is part of Q ANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation, a five year legacy
project led by State Library and proudly supported by the Queensland Government, commemorating the
centenary of World War One and Anzac across Queensland.

Q ANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation, will commemorate and celebrate our history, capture living
memories, and help current and future generations understand Queensland’s experiences during and after
the First World War — renewing the First World War and Anzac legacy.

For more information on the Serving Country Forum online screening and Q ANZAC 100: Memories for a
New Generation visit State Library of Queensland’s website at slq.qld.gov.au.

Serving Country Forum live stream
Friday 26 September, 9am–3.30pm

Join the conversation on Twitter with #ww1 #qanzac100 and #servingcountry

Media enquiries: Kirri-Lee Huggett, SLQ Communications
07 3842 9803 | kirri-lee.huggett@slq.qld.gov.au

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