Australian Research Council-funded Serving our Country: a history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the defence of Australia research project documenting the historical contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian defence and auxiliary services from the Boer War to 2000 was launched at the AIATSIS’ 50th anniversary conference in the Royal Theatre, National Convention Centre, Canberra on 27 March 2014
The project was led by Professor Mick Dodson – Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS) who believed the work would give families a chance to tell their stories about war service and the hardships faced when they returned home, such as finding their children had been put into state care and not being entitled to benefits afforded non-indigenous soldiers.
The project research team included researchers from ANU, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Australian Catholic University, and the University of Newcastle, and a project support team. They visited communities throughout Australia for community Yarn Ups to conduct oral and video recordings with Indigenous defence personnel and/or their families. They also researched national and personal archival records, photos and other materials, and the project culminated in the publication of a compendium style book of essays on involvement in the 20th century conflicts and thematic essays.
The Community Yarn Ups (oral/video and photo history recording sessions) were a vital part of the Serving Our Country Project.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans, ex-service and people involved in Defence support roles like the Coast Watch during the Second World War and their relatives shared stories, along with photos and other objects or papers they felt helped with telling their story.
The interviews were structured to allow individuals to tell their story, their way, and these histories helped to present a richer, deeper history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders service and memories of their involvement, that relying on archives alone could not achieve.
View Yarn Up participant’s profiles and interviews;
One of the major outcomes of the Serving our Country research project is , Serving our Country: Indigenous Australians, war, defence and citizenship, a book edited by Joan Beaumont and Allison Cadzow and published by NewSouth Publishing. It provides a definitive and comprehensive account of Indigenous military service, including all major conflicts of the 20th century, the Protection Acts, the home fronts in the two world wars, women in military service, the ADF today, Indigenous activism after military service, and commemoration.